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The Avignon Festival

A crossroad for theatres from all over the world

 

The 70th Festival d'Avignon closed on the 24th of July. This is a good opportunity to have a closer look on the summer arts event that has been drawing companies and creators from all around the world since its creation.

 

A long tradition of openness

The Festival d'Avignon has no equal in the world: it stages 300 performances performed for about 40 shows every year, a high number of first creations, a rich "off" festival and more. Every summer since 1947, the festival transforms the city in an open scene for theatre, dance and music lovers from all over the world.

In 70 years, the festival has become a world-class arts event. As early as 1950, the festival welcomed international shows by young people in love with theatre. In the 70's, a former monastery, La Chartreuse, became a international housing for artists. Year after year, major creators make a stop in Avignon: choreographers Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham, from Italy and the United States, Italian theatre director Romeo Castellucci and others. Over time, the festival explored the scenic arts from all over the world and invited Indian, Iranian, Japanese or Taiwanese companies.

Now, international artists are part of the festival programming, as in the case of Congolese stage director, actor and writer Dieudonné Niangouna in 2013, or German stage director Thomas Ostermeier in 2004. The festival uses the diversity of their look on the world and live performance.

From Italy to Japan and Syria

True to this tradition of openness, the Avignon Festival welcomed this year many foreign artists. Among others, Belgian stage director Ivo van Hove presented "The Damned", a major performance of the 2016 edition. This adaptation of the film by Luchino Visconti performed by the Comédie française moved everybody and was said by "Le Point" and "Le Monde" to be "splendid" and "masterful".

As part of a focus on the Middle East offered by the Festival, Syrian Omar Abusaada staged "While I was waiting" (Alors que j'attendais), a play by fellow Mohammad Al Attar about the Syrian war as seen through the eyes of a young man in coma.

Angélica Liddell, the actress, writer and stage director from Madrid, presented her new creation: "What would I do with this sword?" (¿Qué haré yo con esta espada?), a travel between Paris and Tokyo in Spanish, French and Japanese.

27 foreign companies in the Off Festival

Every year for 50 years, another major festival is held in Avignon at the same time as official shows: the Off festival. Thanks to partnerships with festivals from four continents, "the Off" is now the biggest festival of foreign companies in France. This year, 27 participated in the event and came from Algeria, Iran, Taiwan or the UK.

Among other shows, "We Love Arabs", by Israeli choreographer Hillel Kogan, deeply touched the audience. His message of humanism defying religious prejudice was particularly relevant with current trends. Young Taiwanese choreographer Po-Cheng Tsai also presented a poetic "Floating Flowers", a meditation on grief inspired by a Taiwanese religious celebration.

With live performance as sole language, the Festival d'Avignon has become a worldwide crossroads of culture.

 

Pictures © Christophe Raynaud de Lage/Festival d’Avignon