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Dr. hab. art. GUNA ZELTINA: During three days in May 2017, the festival offered vide and diverse programme, fully accomplishing organisers’ objective to connect classics with experimental. We had an opportunity to watch unusual and innovative interpretations of well-known plays, experimental avant-garde productions and explorations of new theatre language in synthesis of movement, sound and light.  Truly youthful and studently, refraining from stereotypes of award ceremonies, was the festival opening on Jelgava Students’ Theatre roof and their performance of a mini play “Helmut and Helly” (Author Maya Ozolina, director Astra Kacena), which confirmed the wish of the theatre to seek new original expressiveness and ability to find it in a witty use of seemingly simple, purposely chosen features and properties.

Students’ Theatre of Latvian University of Agriculture received an award for modern and dynamic ensemble’s performance –  “I Flew with Air Balloon in Paris” (Director Kalev Kudu); the production that surprised with unexpected and fresh interpretation of “The Cherry Orchard” by Anthon Chekhov motives and well balanced actors’ work. There was successfully used video projections (by Laima Kacena) in this production, which helped to create surrealistically metaphoric and apocalyptic mood, also marking a historically recognisable disposition and atmosphere. Estonian guest director’s risky approach to reduce the wide system of characters of the play to a few, allocating to each only some significant phrases and monologues, supplementing them with haiku and actors’ personal childhood memories, fully justified itself because of actors’ perfect physical and spiritual devotion to the performance.  Experienced actors of the ensemble – Dace Zurina (Ranevska), Arturs Maskats (Gayevski), Kaspars Zurins (Yepihidov), together with newer ones – Inguna Strode (Varya), Marta Zale-Zalite (Anya), Kristaps Gebelis (Trofimov), managed to reveal the pain of their character, the Chekhovian hurt and modern person’s dramatic feeling in this time and place where the Orchard is destroyed. The inner concentration and dynamism how each of those actors lived their story in seemingly externally static performance, creating unified chain of energy, determined experts’ decision to give the award of festival’s best actors to all of them.

Students’ Theatre of Riga Technical University “Spele” earned recognition for vivid visual qualities and culture of production in their performance of “The Mandrake” (director Romans Grabovskis). Set and costume designer Inita Grinberga created a truly fascinating Renaissance alike scenery with impressive banquet table, costumes and other features. Performing this comedy of virtues by Niccolo Machiavelli in an exaggerated theatrical style, some actors however were overdoing the caricaturising of their characters.  This style was performed by ease and in the most natural way by Andris Krumins in the role of monk Timoteo, earning for him one of The Best Actor’s award.

Students’ Theatre of University of Latvia received award for harmonious ensemble work in a “key” of benign irony in the performance of “Eight Loving Women” (director Visvaldis Klintsons).  The director and cast managed to create a witty captivating version of this often-staged play, also thanks to suitably applied partiture of movements as well, that was watched with unremitting attention.  All the ensemble worked purposefully, however especially stood out Ance Andersone in the role of Suzenna, earning for this one of the Best Actress awards, and hearty comical Grandma of Laima Geikina who earned a special prize of experts for her acting.Students’ Theatre of Riga Technical University “Kamertonis” received a diploma for metaphoric and delicate disclosure of poet’s inner world in composition “Alexander Čaks’ Dreams and Pain” (director Ludmila Stancika). Also, theatre performed Ray Bradbury’s “The Unsatisfactory Supper”, in which the theme of unreturned love and individual selfishness was addressed by vivid means of expression and poetry of dance, sensitively revealed by actress Tatiana Solovyova in the role of aunty Roza.  However, it seems crucial to mention the successful interpretation of  Čaks’ poetry and prose interpretation by this ensemble, characterised by lively acting, successfully chosen stage metaphors and symbols, for example, an apple as a symbol of scent of childhood memories, love, nature, etc.  This ensemble’s actor Anton Patlin earned an award of the Best Actor for a sensitive interpretation of the poet’s inner world.Students’ Theatre of Batumi Shota Rustavelli State University (Georgia) stood out with their dynamic acting and witty fast paced interpretation of Mark Kameloti’s situation comedy ”Family’s Idyll” (director Roin Dvali).  Georgian temperament literally sparkled and exploded during all performance, letting the ensemble to turn the well-done but simple and even trivial play about a husband, wife, lovers of both of them and a jolly lady cook’s adventures into an evening of exciting theatre.  The perfect ability of the cast to combine precise reactions, fast talking and actions with an excellent sense of humour and feel of situations, brought the award of The Best Actress to Mariana Kikava (wife),  and The best Actor for Irakly Katamadze (husband Bernard) and Michaeil Yincharadze (lover Robert).Students’ Theatre of University of Tartu (Estonia)  in their performance “Obsession of Stella Polaris” (director Einor Ninamegi) offered experiments with actors’ voice and movement.  Using a vast back drop design with primitive stylised drawings and symbols on it, with a special partiture of lights and actors’ movement, this ensemble lived through the story of Creation and an individual in it, without words, in a language of physical theatre by young actors recreating actions of humans and diverse animals.  In this piece of physical theatre, the young actress Anabell Berg stood out with her witty and precise performance, for what she received a special award of the festival.

Kinetic group of the Students’ Theatre of Vilnius University also demonstrated searches for new theatre language in both: in their performance “Through Body” and masterclass led by Andrius Palkaunikas.  Intended as an ironic view of modern world saturated with stress, chaos, mutual offset and aggression, this performance addressed the audience with performers’ perfect plasticity and strong unusual expressiveness.  Actors trained physiques, for example Alise Dulko’s virtuoso movements created an illusion of her nearly flying in air-space (the Best Actress Special Award), the mutual intertwining of actors’ bodies, drapes, props and the metaphors created by this interaction, convinced that there are a new potential in the field of physical and performance theatre.  In the same way as all this beautiful festival, happening under the sign of a lucky lilac blossom, confirmed the vital creative potential of students’ theatres and their vast new prospects.

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