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November 15, 2019
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"Romani Army" by Berlin-based Maxim Gorki Theater Company gets standing ovation at Czech festival

1.6.2019 14:58
Mindj Panther (2018). Photo by Drago Palavra Photography.
Mindj Panther (2018). Photo by Drago Palavra Photography.

The oppression of minorities, including Romani people, and their position in the future is the subject of the "Romani Army" theatrical production. The performance combines serious themes with moments of hyperbole that are almost cabaret-style.

The Berlin-based Maxim Gorki Theater Company performed the show on the last day of the Theatre World festival in Brno, Czech Republic on 29 May. Most of the audience gave it a standing ovation.

Actors in the production by director Yael Ronen - most of whom are Romani people from different European countries - play with the idea of revolution and establishing an armed force of Romani people. At other times they ventilate their traumatizing experiences from their adolescences and childhoods in the Balkans and in Britain, rapping and singing at some points.

Later the actors transform into "Romani superheroes" and reflect on the future of Roma to close the show. Setting aside the hyperbole that has accompanied most of the production, they call for the Romani community to become more self-aware, for unity across national borders, and for the suppression of prejudice.

Maxim Gorki Theater Company frequently produces politically and socially-engaged plays. In "Romani Army" the performers also declaim against homophobia and stereotypical views of minorities.

The 10th year of the Brno-based festival offered more than 50 productions at 15 different venues around the city, including a tent pitched at the Kraví hora Park. About 500 artists from Europe, Madagascar, Martinique, the Republic of South Africa and South Korea were featured.

The subject of this year's festival was "The European Dream". The festival poster featured the word "Welcome!".

Last year the festival was attended by 5 800 people. Organizers have not yet published attendance rates for 2019.

Eva Sedláčková, a member of the production team, told the Czech News Agency that the festival took place without complications, although at one point performers from the Comoros Islands had to change their show time due to rain.

The festival also featured a production called "The French" by the Warsaw-based New Theater Company. That performance was unusual for its length - four hours - and set design.

Theater critic Luboš Mareček called it a cocktail of refined acting and riveting images together with movement and music. "In this fantastic stage production of Proust's seven-part novel Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time), you will not only wander into the decadent times of the belle époque, but you will see contemporary Europe there. Importing such theater to Brno is, without exaggeration, an event," the critic said in his review.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Culture, Roma, divadlo, festival



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