On the boundary

The programme of the 25th KONTAKT festival has had two earlier versions (for 2020 and 2021), both planned with the upcoming anniversary in mind and compiled from outstanding theatre performances put on by theatre directors who have left an indelible imprint on the festival audience’s collective memory and by some whose works, though not seen in Toruń yet, are consid-ered to be masterpieces. At long last, the organisers had no other choice but to adopt a hybrid version with theatrical forms adapted for online presentation and a few live performances. For those who are reading this text in May 2021, the reason for that is obvious: the governmental decision made just before 1 May to reopen theatres to the public starting on 29 May, after the lockdown caused by the unstoppable global march of COVID-19, which started at the beginning of 2020 and subsequently produced various mutations. Although we do not intend to discuss the pandemic here, this year’s KONTAKT bears witness to it.

Performances, films and other forms of performative activity available on the Internet represent diverse directions in thinking about the world and theatre, historical and literary inspirations, the level of involvement in diagnosing reality, and showing the sources of today’s anxieties, fears and hopes. They all have one thing in common: they have been created in formats suitable for online viewing, stemming from the need to cross boundaries or overcome restrictions in direct contact. Therefore, you are invited to step into our boundary zone, primarily to the one between theatre understood as actors meeting their audience and theatre using information technology as a means of communication. On its two stages, the Horzyca Theatre hosts four Polish performances, including The Tempest in Yiddish (with subtitles) and The Bible. An Attempt (produced in Toruń by a Slovenian team led by Jernej Lorenci). You are also invited overseas: to a house on a lake in Upstate New York, where a group of befriended actors live and breathe Chekhov’s Seagull; to the claustrophobic dressing room of Munich Residenztheater, from which the protagonist of Büchner’s Lenz, played by an excellent young actress, is looking for a way out; onto the NTGent stage in Ghent, where Luk Perceval comes to grips with a major Belgian trauma; onto the mainstage of the Youth Theatre in Zagreb, Croatia, to meet representatives of a post-war generation (it makes no difference that it is the one that survived WWI); and to the homes of the hosts of Call Cutta at Home in Calcutta and Tallinn, where they live and work, crossing borders in their attempts to try combining an economic goal with the need for contact, even intercontinental if need be.

Finally, you are invited to the boundary between the worlds: in Lausanne, an octopus rescued from a marketplace is living in an aquarium standing on the stage. It is watching and being watched; it reacts and provokes reactions; it does not leave its hiding place at times.

Borders are crossed in Belarus, Iraq, in Kobyłka near Warsaw and on the Internet – on a daily basis. Our theatre festival allows you to follow such situations from a safe place, not only from a medical perspective. This year’s KONTAKT includes several dozen simultaneous events on the web: in the theatre and around the theatre. For the Horzyca Theatre and the festival team, it is also a new and somewhat borderline situation. Our goal is to preserve the image of KONTAKT as the oldest and the most meaningful international festival in Poland, organized in Toruń since 1991. ‘Thanks to’ the pandemic, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary the festival took off: the best age and time for verification. Is the jubilarian still alive, modern, attractive, exciting, and has the boundary been pushed further into the future?

Andrzej Churski