I really had the best time in Brno at The Encounter festival organised by JAMU

If you ever find yourself in Czech republic in April you have to go to this brilliant festival. Essentially it is a collection of the best work from European (mostly) drama schools – full of energy, passion and risk.

I was on the international professional Jury of Theatre practitioners along with Christine, Fred, Christina and Jussi. We had the job (tough) of awarding four prizes to amongst 13 international student productions

Encounter has been in existence for 25 years and is run almost entirely by students from the school. It is a live project of fundraising and management that encompasses much of the students’ time at JAMU – the organising school.

These were the awards as we gave them – details of the productions are all listed on the Encounter website

Dreamspell (from Lithuania)

For the outstanding direction of a truly Ensemble work, guiding this talented company in creating a powerful choreographic, visual, sonic and vocal world. With a strong metaphysical dimension and spiritual quality, this highly original work was fully realised with craft, guile and imagination.

This award went to Kamile Gudmonaite for her direction of Dreamspell.

Talk to Me (From Slovakia)

 An award for a pair of actors who together created well balanced, clear, concrete and mature performances. This believable couple were fresh in their approach with a light touch and clearly articulated intentions. They contributed along with their excellent fellow actors to a production that was well directed, conceived and realised. The award went to Barbora Andresicova and Richard Autner in Talk to We

Road to Happiness (Germany)

For an authentic and dynamic actor who was as part of a convincing collective production that was realised with powerful vocal and physical articulation. A production that challenged and engaged our senses and sensibilities in expressing the unbearable happiness of our lives.

This award went to Sebastian Griegel 

 Hamlet (Hungary)

For the presence, intensity and energy in an interpretation renewing an iconic play in a truly contemporary way, we want to celebrate this original and united work with an award to the promising and exciting actor  for his performance in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

A feast of imagination I loved Encounter and cannot wait to go back…




On the way to Brno for Encounter Festival…

I stopped for a night in Prague and went to DOX to see a new exhibition : ART BRUT and a nearly new play 1914 by ROBERT WILSON

Both interestingly challenged norms – first ART BRUT at DOX:

DOX is the contemporary arts space in Prague

Art Brut is described as a form of artistic expression that is inextricably tied to the life of its creators, for whom art is a way of grappling with their existence – of conquering space, taming the body, mastering the mind, or even saving the world…

This is a fabulous exhibition which is a collection of work from collector Bruno Decharme whose interest is in artists working on the margins – (reminds me of the saying “ if you aren’t living on the edge you are taking up too much room”). Many of the exhibitors don’t call themselves artist but their output is of interest and has a powerful dynamic which sits with in and without any mainstream.

Most if not all of the artists have been institutionalised – prison, asylums, special homes. Many have physical disabilities or mental disorders from deafness to Asperger’s.

The work of Art Brut (which is not a collective but rather a random collection of individuals – just how they would like to be me thinks..) are articulations of fantasies or responses to situations outside of the norm – which create outputs in new frameworks with are truly articulations or stories which sit outside of ‘the norm’.



Reading the works’ associated stories and comprehending context, the art seems to merge with the artist, we comprehend how their brains were/are operating differently to the rules of the norm. From paintings and sculpture; to recycling of a parents ashes (see photo above!) to connecting of seemingly un-connectable objects, it is a whirlwind of output that literally stops you in your tracks.

We all go to galleries, particularly modern art and think why? Or what does that mean? How can I access this concept or why am I being challenges so brutally. I will go with my son to Tate Modern , he will look at a Kandinsky or Duchamp and say what the hell is that meant to be” – or what a waste of time or in the case of Duchamp…what a pile of sh*t.

In Art Brut these questions are already answered it is all mental – literally the work is crazy… which makes it interesting, challenging, heart-breaking and brutal I question some of the natural aesthetics or skill of making and yet the objects have such resonance that their beauty or cruelty outweighs their physical manifestations to let us into and be challenged but artists on the margin.

A remarkable exhibition.

In addition to this is the intriguing sculpture of Lukas Rittenstein’s sculptural series entitled Highway



Who moulds and melds old cars and vehicles with elements of nature – most dramatically big birds.. strange yet soothing somehow it is vast and clearly articulate work. Odd but rooted

National Theatre Production 1914

Working in the mainstream but challenging our thinking is Robert Wilson’s version of 1914 a play with music in a burlesque cabaret style which looks at the episodes leading up to and incorporating the outbreak of WW1.

All very vogue of course – the best piece of work by far I have seen on this subject area not being the somewhat tedious RSC production The Christmas Truce nor this production, but the Soundrama play The War which was performed as part of The Edinburgh International Festival 2014. The War (see previous Edinburgh Blog) was an EPIC piece of work with a solid single story.

1914 somehow managed to be less EPIC and less engaging. It was fabulously ‘cartoonish’ and minimalist with its brutal lighting white faced characters and symbolic movement. The world was odd yet recognisable and the action intriguing but not so interesting.

The stakes were high – but not high enough, the action interesting but…

The actors were good and the evening puzzling and intriguing but it left me cold and unconcerned.

The parallels with ART  BRUT was interesting. 1914 seems mainstream even though the characters were being pushed to the edge by the pressure of looming war.

Sterile, yet still enjoyable (entertaining) the work was more conscious and less inspiring perhaps than our marginalised artists..?