Theatre Café 2014-15 went out with a bang at the Danish Embassy last Friday. And what an ending it was! Four plays challenging content and form in theatre for young audiences and tackling in an inventive way many of the themes present in European writing today: grief, loss, the economic crisis, dysfunctional families, the digital world, the fine line between reality and imagination, and our very worst fears. The readings were vivid and engaging and were followed by an interesting discussion with the playwrights which continued till late over a glass a wine.
I have received so many positive comments about the event that I feel it was the perfect finale for our two-year long European Festival.
Many people are asking me what happens now with Theatre Café and I always reply that after the last two intense years we need a break – and we really do! – so we do not plan to be back before 2017. I will, however, miss Theatre Café, the challenge of finding the right plays, the stimulating conversations around them, the invigorating cultural exchange across European borders…
After the event at the Danish Embassy somebody commented on the irony of an Italian presenting Danish plays in the UK in a programme curated by a Norwegian. I feel this totally represents the spirit of Theatre Café, crossing borders, breaking language barriers and being, for want of a better word, truly pan-European.
In the last two years we travelled from York to Oslo, Berlin, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and back to Berlin, passing through London twice.
We presented plays from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
We brought together young people from Holland, Germany, Norway and the UK in what some of them have defined a ‘life-changing experience’, working on new plays and finding common ground through theatre.
We created the European Writers’ Lab, a development programme for 5 playwrights who were commissioned to write 4 full-length plays for young audiences, mentored along the way by writers and dramaturgs coming from a different country. For, the writers who participated, this expanded their horizons and gave them new freedoms to explore in their writing.
In all our Theatre Café programmes we feature interviews with the participating playwrights and one of the key questions we ask everybody is ‘What does Europe mean to you?’ What comes out of their answers is the illusion of borders, the inspiration offered by diversity, the capacity of different people to share and grow together, and the power of ideas over differences.
European unity starts with culture and not with politics. As Portuguese writer Tiago Rodrigues puts it: ‘Contrary to the mainstream concept of Europe today, which is dominated by the free circulation of goods and capital, I believe in Europe as a story of circulation of ideas and thought. George Steiner says that Europe will exist as long as cafés exist, meeting places where people can talk, argue, disagree, gather, start collective movements and have a drink. My Europe is full of cafés.’
My Europe is full of cafés too. Theatre Café is the epitome of Steiner’s concept; since starting it in 2004 I always dreamt of more and more Theatre Cafés taking place around Europe. In the current political situation my dream has nothing if not intensified.
Until next time,