The full programme for the 56th edition of BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival) has been announced.
The festival will run from 23rd September to 1st October and will consist of nine shows connected by this year’s theme: Mi junaci rada svog (We are the heroes of our labour). All the performances will be in some way connected to the theme of work in a recognition of the precarious living and working conditions faced by many after the pandemic.
Founded in 1967, by Mira Trailović and Jovan Ćirilov, BITEF (Belgrade International Theatre Festival) has consistently showcased avant garde work and is one of the biggest festivals in the region.
This year’s programme will feature Katie Mitchell’s first appearance at the festival in its history as well as work by UK director Aleksander Zeldin and Slovenian directors Nina Rajić Kranjac and Žiga Divjak.
The prologue performance, on 23rd September, will be the Schaubühne Theater production of (It’s not) the End of the World written by acclaimed UK playwright Chris Bush and directed by Mitchell.
The festival will open officially on 25th September with Belgian choreographer Jan Martens’ Every attempt will end in broken bodies and broken bones, the only dance piece in the programme.
On 26th September, there will be a presentation of Gardien Party, produced by Zirlib from Orléans, and directed by Muhammed el Khatib and Valery Mrezan, a piece of documentary theatre about the working life of guards at various museums and galleries around the world, which has previously been performed in museums.
Tijuana is a solo show written by Lazaro Gabino Rodrigez and Luisa Pardo, and performed by Gabino Rodrigez, about the experience of trying to survive on the minimum wage in Mexico.
There will be two world premieres of Serbian plays during the festival, Dr Auslender (Made for Germany) by Bojan Đorđev, co-created with Tanja Šljivar and Mina Milošević about the experience of health care workers in Germany and World without Women, a new piece by Maja Pelević and Olga Dimitrijević about the working conditions for women in Serbian theatre. The former will be performed in the amphitheatre of the medical faculty of the University of Belgrade.
Nina Rajić Kranjac’s Solo, a chaotic four hour show about the career trajectory of young directors, starring Rajić Kranjac alongside Natašom Keser, Benjaminom Krnetićem and Markom Mandićem. A coproduction with Slovenskog mladinskog gledališča and Maska it will be performed at the Belgrade port on 29th and 30th September.
The programme will also feature Alexander Zeldin’s unflinching play Love, a piece about the reality of life in a temporary housing facility in the UK, which premiered at London’s National Theatre in 2016. It will also be performed in Belgrade port.
The 56th BITEF programme will conclude with a world premiere of Crisis by Slovenian director Žiga Divjak – whose production of Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs was supposed to play last year’s festival – again co-produced by Maska and Slovenskog mladinskog gledališča, which will be performed on 30th September and 1st October at the Bitef theatre.
Further reading: Žiga Divjak: “We have to completely change our value system.”
Review of Nina Rajić Kranjac’s Solo
Natasha Tripney is a writer, editor and critic based in London and Belgrade. She is the international editor for The Stage, the newspaper of the UK theatre industry. In 2011, she co-founded Exeunt, an online theatre magazine, which she edited until 2016. She is a contributor to the Guardian, Evening Standard, the BBC, Tortoise and Kosovo 2.0