This Friday allows visitors a final opportunity to take part in Za dveřmi, a street theatre festival which this week transformed Prague’s Wenceslas Square. The festival saw troupes from both the Czech Republic and abroad perform physical theatre, New Circus and much more.
I spoke to the festival’s Dominika Antonie Skalová about Za dveřmi and how, after six years, it has caught on. She began by discussing the festival’s main aim.
“Za dveřmi is a street festival so that of course immediately sets it apart from traditional performances. It is much closer to the viewers and it is always different.”
What does a site like Wenceslas Square bring in terms of atmosphere?
“We like the square a lot, it ism after all the centre of Prague and it is very dynamic and animated and spontaneous. We really like that there is no border between the actors and the audience and that is very different from a play staged indoors.”
The fest lasted all throughout this week: what time do shows start and finish?
“The program is such that there are four performances a day, beginning at four in the afternoon and ending at ten in the evening.”
Where were the troupes taking part from and how many?
“We had a total of 20 performances featuring 18 or 19 troupes from nine countries including Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Ukraine, Israel and Germany. And of course he Czech Republic.”
I read that there was an overarching theme, is that correct?
“Yes, this year the theme was about freedom and personal liberty. One of the topics, in that context, was support for Ukraine. We wanted to show that what was going on in Ukraine was important for us, that we are here, and that is why liberty was the topic.”
Was that also reflected in some of the performances?
“Yes. On Monday we also had a parade in support of Ukraine and on Monday there was also a performance by Teatr Voskresinnia.”
If we talk about aesthetics, how do the performances differ or in what ways are they similar? Is there a lot of physicality involved, is there New Circus? What are some of the different elements in the mix?
“All of the above and more. It is New Circus, it is physical, it is a mix of music and dance. Street theatre is usually not about the word but about body language and a mix of all these things.”
“That’s true. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say that our dramaturgy or art direction was influenced by this: street theatre is what it is. It is much more physical by definition.”
Have there been moments that really stood out this year, I imagine there must have been several?
“Yes, on Wednesday we saw a really lovely performance entitled Time Bank by a Berlin troupe called Grotest Maru. It used vertical acrobatics, which means they walked and danced on the facade of one of the buildings. It was incredible and something I have never seen before. They really performed on the front of the building. They did some unbelievable moves. The audience was really surprised and the show, twice on the day, drew very big crowds.”
Friday sees four more performances, including by Czech troupes, so people still have a chance to see that and should if they can. How happy are you with how things have gone and where would you say the festival is now compared to when it began?
“I think it is fair to say that the festival has found its audience since it was founded six years ago. That first year we were in the centre but not on the square and it was maybe more foreigners in the audience. That has changed. Czech theatre lovers know about us and attend, sometimes planning to spend the whole day. It’s much more than people just going by by chance. We are very happy with how things have developed and it is a big difference from when we first started.”