The RADA Festival 2018 runs from 27 June to 7 July, inviting graduates to present their work. We catch up with director Katalin Trencsényi, bringing Anna-Liisa to the festival this year:

Now in its 7th year, the RADA Festival 2018 celebrates the work of its past graduates with a ten-day programme of theatre, installations and discussions. That’s ten days that centre around the school and its network of contacts, ten days of individuals who have learnt their craft in those hallowed halls, who return to take creative risks, extend their work into new territories and experiment with telling stories in unexpected ways.

Here at Miro Magazine, we are always on the lookout for the next generation of theatremaker, so where better to look than at a set of graduate artists? Throughout the festival, we will be profiling some of the companies and people bringing along their work, seeking feedback and hoping to expand their own networks through the common link of their alma mater.

RADA Festival 2018

Next up in our Spotlight feature is Anna-Liisa, which plays at RADA Festival on 7 July 2018. We caught up with director Katalin Trencsényi:

Describe Anna-Liisa in three words.

’19th-century feminist drama.’

Is this your first RADA Festival experience?

‘As a director – yes. I very much look forward to it. It has been a rewarding journey working together on this exciting play with my ensemble, flashpoint collective, to bring the UK debut of Anna-Liisa by the celebrated Finnish playwright, Minna Canth to the RADA Festival. As a director colleague of mine noted about the play: “It’s like Ibsen but better!’

Who else are you most looking forward to seeing while at the RADA Festival?

‘As a tutor at RADA, I am delighted to see many of my former RADA students presenting their work at this year’s Festival. I hope to see as many of them as possible. I also look forward to seeing the work of director Simona Gonella. Not only because she, like me, works both as a dramaturg as well as a director, but also because I saw her Clay to Flesh at RADA last year and found it a very interesting production, so I am curious to see her latest work, White Noise.’

Who or what are your inspirations?

‘People, who follow my work, may know that I also work as a dramaturg, as well as having an international career as a researcher. These various strands are all important for me and are interconnected in my life: my practitioner’s experience is folded into my research and vice versa.

‘It may sound strange, but I have different interests when I work as a director than when I work as a dramaturg. As a dramaturg I am drawn to new dramaturgy and dance dramaturgy, and productions that explore the question of what theatre/ performance may become. Whereas as a director, I prefer to choose works from a modern classic repertoire and discover in them why they could be relevant for us here and now. Probably because of my European background, I find that interpretational process intriguing and exciting. I love working in the rehearsal room with performers, and exploring and developing the work collaboratively.’

Anna-Liisa RADA Festival 2018

Katalin Trencsényi (image courtesy of Cynthia SoRelle)

What are the future plans for Anna-Liisa?

‘I would like to say that I’d love to see Anna-Liisa fully produced, but having done European plays in translation in the UK in the past twenty years, I know that, sadly, there is very little interest in this kind of work over here. So my plan is to carry on working with my ensemble of RADA graduates, flashpoint collective, and see where our mutual interests will take us, and what is it we can create collaboratively.’

What is the best production that you saw in the last 12 months?

‘I would like to mention three pieces:

Eugene Onegin directed by Rimas Tuminas at the Vakhtangov Theatre for the unity of vision, movement and text, and for the fact that it dared to be emotional without being sentimental. I also have to say that the interpretation of the production was a very strong feminist statement by one of Europe’s outstanding (male) directors.

Five Easy Pieces by the Swiss director, Milo Rau – a political theatre, exploring the difficult and gruesome story of a notorious Belgian child abuser and serial killer through a performance by children that used the technique of live interviews and statements. The performance had a visceral effect on me: through highlighting the fragility of children it drew attention to our society’s responsibility towards them.

Beytna, an interdisciplinary contemporary dance production, combining live music, dance and cooking by Lebanese dancer and choreographer, Omar Rajeh and his Maqamat Dance Theatre Production, in collaboration with Le Trio Joubran. The piece combined four dancer-choreographers from four different cultures, Koen Augustijnen, Omar Rajeh, Anani Sanouvi and Hiroaki Umeda, in a mélange with music, dance and cooking, negotiating between their various movement languages on the stage, while preparing a feast for the audience, that we shared together with the dancers and the musicians at the end of the show.’

Is there anything else you want to highlight about Anna-Liisa?

Anna-Liisa is about the way society restrains women, by creating a rigid framework for their existence. Those who decide to ignore this can only do so at their peril.

‘We had already started the rehearsals, when I realised that I am working with an all-female creative team: the designer, lighting designer, dramaturg, assistant director, and even the musicians are all women. So this is another feminist message perhaps: enabling women to live in this world on their own terms.

‘What attracted me to the play first was how well it was written. Although these days it is not fashionable to admit it, I like plays that also work on the textual level as a piece of literature. That it is not only what is written but how it is written that can have a profound aesthetic effect on one. I also admire the way this play is crafted: its clever construction, as well as the memorable, complex characters.

‘When I first encountered this play, the story captivated me immediately: the fact that before Act I has hardly started, we find out about a serious crime, which keeps us on the edge of our seat till the end of the play. I also loved the complexity of the play, that as an audience member I side with a criminal, and condemn the society. I love the mystery about this play: that no matter how deep one analyses it, there still remains a secret, that cannot be resolved or explained. For me this is a sign of a masterpiece.

‘It also has a folk ballad feel about it that reminds me of 19th century Hungarian folk ballads – perhaps this is a strong connection, on a deeper, Finno-Ugrian level of my subconscious!

‘And, of course the play’s very contemporary, feminist message caught my attention too, not to mention the fact that not many 19th century female playwrights’ works are shown on stage.’



Writer: Minna Canth

Translator: Minna Jeffery

Direct0r: Katalin Trencsényi

Producer: flashpoint collective

Design: Baśka Wesołowska; Ali Hunter (lighting)

Musicians: Sofia Eklund; Ilona Suomalainen

Cast: Charlie Barker; Nicola Campbell; Carol Fitzpatrick; Mhairi Gayer; Scott Howland; Ella Kent; Shiraz Khan; Gunnar deYoung; Harriet Taylor; Alessandro Trinca 

Anna-Liisa runs at the RADA Festival 2018 on 7 July 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.