Crammed with castles, cathedrals, and its own opera house with two clockwork goats as its mascots, the Polish city of Poznan is one of the country’s oldest, largest and most vibrant. Every June, for around three weeks, the city flourishes with a methodically curated collection of cultural activities, under the guise of the Malta Festival. Named after the lake on the outskirts of the city whose banks played host to the festival’s earliest editions, the Malta Festival’s 2015 edition celebrated its 25 anniversary in style with an inclusive and welcoming programme ranging from experimental theatre to opera and from cinema to yoga.
Unafraid to tackle life’s big questions, this year’s Idiom, New World Order, curated by British artist and writer Tim Etchells, questions our position in the world while pushing the audience to take a fresh look at the world we share. A founding member and the Artistic Director of the world-renowned experimental performance group Forced Entertainment, Etchells programme included a varied selection of the group’s works including the intimate and playful Tomorrow’s Parties. Set on a minimal stage illuminated only by a string of coloured lights, two actors shared their musings on what the future might hold for various global and trivial matters in a comical, yet relatable hypothetical future guessing game.
As well as Forced Entertainment productions, Etchells selected a number of performers to be part of his curated programme including Deborah Pearson’s The Future Show and his former students from The Amsterdam College of Arts mime programme, Schwalbe, whose production Schwalbe is looking for crowds comments on people’s desire to be amongst others and the safety which many feel from being part of the crowd. Performing an exhausting hour long physical performance, Schwalbe and a group of local volunteers run continuously in a tight circular motion like a school of fish, with only the occasional individual breaking to prove their individuality.
Also programmed within Etchell’s Idiom is a small independent film programme including Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2009 Greek New Wave film Kiel. A curious portrayal of the lives of three children who are kept in isolation from the outside world and taught a bizarre set of morals by their wealthy parents, screened in the courtyard of the city’s Old Ballet School, the film’s intriguing topic maintained the audience’s attention despite the cold and rainy weather conditions (not common in the month of June).
Having grown in size since its first edition 25 years ago, the festival now occupies one of Poznan’s larger city squares where a stage, relaxation area and pop up bar and restaurant provide space for people to meet, discuss or watch programmed performances in an outdoor venue. A central hub which perfectly illustrates the festival’s serious but social vibe, it also reveals how local community involvement and participation is central to the festival.
Away from Poznan’s city centre is Lazarz garden, a neighbourhood square in one of the city’s residential suburbs, which hosts the central programme for the festival’s community offer. A small intimate space surrounded by overbearing tower blocks, wild flowers and a willow tree provide a natural haven for workshops, art commissions and live performances by bands including the jazz and blues inspired sounds of local band Lord and the Liar, which draw a varied audience of local residents and Poznan’s wider community.
A little closer to the city centre in the consumer metropolis of the Stary Browar (Old Brewery), a 130 000 m² complex is home to a community focused dance centre which runs a programme of experimental dance performances from international performers during the festival, including the Israeli duo, the All-Eaters. Performing naked and fully exposed to their audience, the duo’s bodies intertwine to create various forms and situations which, rather than erotic, is actually laugh-out-loud comical.
A diverse festival set in a city with the same qualities, Poznan’s Malta Festival is a cultural trip for anyone with an interest in theatre or the arts. It encompasses a varied and diverse programme occupying interesting disused spaces, providing visitors access to a different side of Poznan than that on offer to standard tourists, and is undoubtedly a festival that more culture-loving travellers should embrace.
For more details on the forthcoming year’s programme visit www.malta-festival.pl.
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1. Malta Festival, Poznan, 2015. Courtesy of Malta Festival and Maciej Zakrzewski .