Culture in Poznań



Under a single sky

"The festival has no direct impact on the world: it does not work on a state border or fight on the frontlines in a war, but, like most of us, it can make a difference from behind the scenes", say the organisers of this year's Malta festival in their programme statement. They encourage us all to join ranks with them behind the scenes.

A scene from the performance in blue-grey-white colours - grafika artykułu
Luk Perceval & NTGent, "The Sorrows of Belgium", photograph: Fred Debrock

After two trying pandemic editions, Malta is back with its former vengeance. This year's motto, "The world in a squeeze", is meant, on the one hand, to express closeness, togetherness, tenderness, and mutual care. After months of isolation, mandatory social distancing, and all other dramatic consequences of the pandemic, this seems particularly vital. On the other hand, the "squeeze" alludes to oppression, violence, and being trapped, all the things that our neighbours across the eastern border experience crushingly today. Balanced between these definitions is the programme of this year's festival, which centres on the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border and the extreme societal clefts and conflicts that it has sparked. "The war in Ukraine has steeled our resolve to produce a festival that provides room for empowerment and radical collective dreaming of a more equitable future," say the organisers.

The Belgian trilogy

Since last year, instead of idioms, Malta offers a Portrait of an Artist, which presents the work of outstanding authors in contemporary theatre and literature. The spotlight this year falls on Luk Perceval, one of the most prominent theatre directors and a classic of contemporary European theatre representing the Flemish wave: a generation of artists who revolutionised European theatre and dance in the 1980s. Perceval appeared in Malta in 2010. As part of the "Flemish" idiom, he staged "The Truth About the Kennedys". This time around, the artist brings "The Sorrows of Belgium", a trilogy tackling three infamous chapters in Belgian history. "What makes the event unique is that all of its three parts will be shown in their entirety for the first time ever", notes Kinga Misiorna, the festival's spokeswoman. Thus, the audience is in for a theatre marathon with the Belgian artist. Coffee and lunch breaks are scheduled between the successive parts of the trilogy.

Theatre at a table

With all this said, one should note that Malta theatre is not only about Luk Perceval. A tragicomic performance about friendship and loneliness titled Cuckoo will be presented by Jaha Koo of South Korea. The American dancer and choreographer Trajal Harrell is going to stage the dance performance he created for the cult album The Köln Concert by the American pianist and jazz composer Keith Jarrett. Released in 1975, the album remains the best-selling solo compilation in the history of jazz and piano music. How have Harrell and his team translated it into the language of dance? Make sure to find out during one of the festival screenings.

Let It Burn is a joint project of Marceli Levi of Brazil and the Argentine artist Luci Russo. The performance confronts the audience with stereotypes of black dancers' bodies. "By drawing on burlesque, musical, dance performances, and gags, the artists shatter traditional codes by excessively embodying them: bulging eyes, frenetic dances, deformed smiles and prominent white teeth", says the show's description.

Malta's theatrical traditions will be brought to life in two performances of the Polish Theatre of Warsaw on the stage of the Polish Theatre of Poznań. They are Savannah Bay starring the remarkable Anna Polona in a lead role, and the play Deprawator, directed by Maciej Wojtyszka, based on the final years of Witold Gombrowicz's life.

As part of Malta's "Polish programme", Poznań's audiences will get a chance to see Wiktor Bagiński's Zmurzynienie: a story of fascism, although not only its Nazi variety, but also our own Polish, and Kreszany - a joint project of the Zagłębie Theatre of Sosnowiec and the Łaźnia Nowa Theatre of Kraków.

The beginning and the end

The festival will open with a show by Générik Vapeur set in Malta's ludic, open-air format reminiscent of the 1990s. These Maltese "veterans" have visited the Poznań festival on five occasions (starting in 1995). Wherever they appear, they stir up a maelstrom among the public, drawing random participants into their activities. Their Taxi (1998) performance has become Malta's legend after it literally brought the city to a halt. In 2022, Générik Vapeur is back with a parade spectacle Thanks For Everything. You can expect the city to yet again succumb to positive chaos.

Malta's Wielkopolska Wedding Reception finale concert also looks promising. Michał Fetler, Rafał Zapała and the band Polmuz have invited the Poznań neofolk musicians Malwina Paszek and Jacek Hałas to, together - as they describe it - radically reinterpret the traditional music of Wielkopolska.

A number of other interesting musical proposition are in store at Malta. "We have prepared a series of evening concerts on the City Hall courtyard stage to allow voices from various genres to protest against the world around us," says an announcement concerning musical trends. Some of the names include Misia Furtak and Ifi Ude, who is of Polish-Nigerian descent. Featured as well is Minsk/Poznań/Berlin performance showcasing music by artists from the three cities.

Two other separate segments will also be offered. One of them, the Forum, is a series of open meetings and debates moderated by Karolina Lewicka of Tok FM and Michał Nogaś of Gazeta Wyborcza. The other, the Urban Relaxation Course, covers the work of young artists, city activists and the intergenerational community of one of Poznań's allotment coops. There is actually a lot more to be seen under the "Maltese sky" this year.

Sylwia Klimek

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Malta Festival Poznań 2022 "The world in a squeeze"

27 June-3 July

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© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2022