Tamas Jaszay: Monodrama is a popular trend in the European theatre

Tamas Jaszay is a theatre critic and curator from Hungary, editor-in-chief of the critical portal Revizor. He shares with Desislava Vasileva some his impressions on the festival’s Showcase programme.

I am a Hungarian theatre critic, and I teach at the Szegedt University. I teach theatre and drama history, performance analysis, and theatre criticism.

This is not my first time at the Varna Summer Theatre Festival, so I am getting a panoramic view of what is happening in Bulgarian theatre these days. Instead of speaking about the productions one by one, I was thinking about what connects them.

What is very impressive to me this year is that there are many one-man or one-woman shows. This trend might be connected to financial reasons, but I think it is more about artistic choices and decisions. These artists are exploring the form itself: how one can stand alone on a stage and what kinds of stories are worth telling. This trend is not exclusive to Bulgarian theatres; I see the same trend in European theatres. It is likely connected to the COVID pandemic and the resulting safety measures. Although we are past the height of COVID, its effects linger.

These are just private speculations, so I cannot prove them or claim to have done a research, but these monologues and monodramas—someone standing alone on the stage and telling their story—have become extremely trendy in recent years.

Another striking trend at this year’s Varna Summer Festival is the presence of plays from the English-speaking world. Most of these plays are contemporary. For instance, we saw ‘Vanya’q a NT Live screening of the Simon Stephen’s adaptation of Chekhov’s ‘Uncle Vanya’. We also saw ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ also adapted by  Simon Stephens as well as ‘I Am My Own Wife’ written by Doug Wright, who sent a very nice message to the performer after the show.

If we take seriously the words of Margarita Mladenova, who said at the Showcase meeting yesterday that “Beckett is not behind us, but Beckett is forthcoming,” we can consider Beckett one of our contemporaries. His play ‘Happy Days’ was also originally written in English.

So, it was a surprise for me to see so many one-man or one-woman shows, most of them dealing with original English-language texts. Even in plays like ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,’ where there are many characters on stage, there is one very important figure at the centre. I call this type of play a monodrama with many actors on stage. These are the two main trends I noticed.

I’m very sorry I couldn’t watch ‘The Hague’ because I heard it’s an interesting production. However, I am very curious about ‘Saline Nebula’ tonight, which I read is also a one-woman show. I’m also curious about ‘Tribes’ because I checked out the photos and it looks very promising.

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