(Laura Cappelle’s article appeared in The New York Times, 7/18; via Pam Green.)

An underwhelming official lineup led many festivalgoers to branch out into the less well-known complimentary program.

AVIGNON, France — There isn’t one Avignon Festival every July, but two. On the one hand, France’s biggest theater event presents an official selection of productions, known in Anglicized French as “le In.” On the other, you have “le Off” — an open-access, Fringe-style festival which has mushroomed to include more than 1,500 productions this year.

This summer, the contrast between the two events has been especially stark. Disappointment in the main lineup has dominated conversations here, inevitably followed by recommendations for the Off. The In and its director, Olivier Py, have themselves to blame for the downturn. Too often, the theme of this year’s edition — odysseys — led to predictable and preachy theater. Productions raced straight to answers, political or otherwise.

The journey was at least intriguingly personal in “Outside,” a hotly anticipated new work by the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov. Mr. Serebrennikov, who has been accused of fraud in Russia, was released on bail in April after nearly 20 months of house arrest, yet remains banned from leaving Moscow.

The case against him is widely seen as a trumped-up attack on artistic freedom, and Mr. Serebrennikov has continued to work regardless, directing productions from afar. For “Outside,” he took inspiration from another artist who fell afoul of the authorities in his country: the Chinese photographer and poet Ren Hang, who was arrested several times for his explicit work before killing himself in 2017, at age 29.

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