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Puke! But don’t give up on experimental theater

What of the 17th International Theater Festival Unidram? There was plenty of vomiting there, but was it all dry-heaving or was there some substance to it? Uta Friedrich reviews the experience.

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Photo by Sava Hvlavacek

My experience with the 17th International Theater Festival Unidram – a nine-day festival of alternative theater pieces from around the world – began with the strong images from the (in)famous Swiss group kraut_produktion.

The epic critic of a media-driven society is normally divided into four parts; here, for the first time The Chronists 1 and 2 were shown together, the result of which I personally found torturous. If you are wondering why, a summary of the plot explains it all: we are placed in a virtual world of a shallow online community set in a raunchy flat. The superficial, “Hi all, I just wanted to say hi all. By the way, what is this forum about?”-absdurdist dialogues then turn into a grotesque nightmare. The climax, a 20-minute-long scene of vomiting, is literally hard to digest. Is the world of telecommunications really that disgusting? Maybe it is, but the dissemination of bodily liquids for the sake of the shock value should not be called theater. Well… some like it hard.

Of course, such a long festival has something to offer for every taste, from dynamic dance performances, to experimental music concerts, to a multimedia puppet show or a non-verbal theater piece with live music. The “visual” theater ensemble Krepsko returned to Unidram for the third time, this year with their Mad Cup of Tea. Despite being Czech (with a pinch of Finnish), their Amélie-like atmosphere left a French impression. It is amazing what these guys can do with a few (hundred!) cups and saucers, a bike-trapeze and a pair of green rubber boots. The awkward courting scenes and absurd black humor put a constant smile of childish joy on the audience’s faces. The tango orchestra, using cups to play their instruments, perfectly complements the nonverbal improvisation.

Whether it makes you sick, happy or thoughtful, one thing is sure: alternative theater will not leave you untouched. We’re all driven by a pursuit of new experiences; and experimental theater is certainly an adventure. Just go and feel!