The first voice is that of hope. After two years of worry, compensation and finding the way, the Madách International Theatre Meeting – MITEM can again become what it was intended to be: the free encounter of theatre companies and audience where people can get to know each other and have a glance at the most beautiful faces of other cultures. It is neither a festival nor a competition, but a meeting. This simple but perhaps currently better appreciated social occasion allows us to experience theatre as a celebration.
Many prophecies have emerged – which will hopefully be proved wrong once and for all – during the necessary shutdown caused by the Corona virus and the online presence that tasted like coffee substitute. According to some experts, humans would have to say goodbye to handshakes, the ancient ritual of approaching and introduction by the touch. Now this prediction seems to have been false.
Another symptom of the pandemic in the theatre world was getting used to streamed performances. Playing live or to be recorded in front of an empty auditorium where cameras are installed... this is absurd. You cannot hear the sighs, laughs or the held breaths of the spectators. This might be the greatest punishment for an actor. Both symptoms – the ban of handshakes and the empty auditorium – have pointed into one direction. If the industrial environment, the spaces of the big cities and postmodern life have not alienated us enough yet, the epidemic will complete this evil work. This has been predicted and this is what we experienced in some dark hours.
But here we are again, hosting almost all of our foreign guests. We hope that the Vietnamese and Indian companies, who we invited before the pandemic, will arrive as soon as possible, perhaps already in spring. We look forward to welcoming them too! Together with those who can be with us, considerable groups and artists of the international theatre life, we begin to rebuild the trust of the audience. We can start this heroic battle in a prestigious company that is worthy of MITEM’s history. Everything seems possible along with the directors, Robert Wilson, Theodoros Terzopoulos, Silviu Purcărete, Eirik Stubø, Alekszandar Popovszki, Ivan Uryvskyi, Gábor Tompa and actors from Porto, Athens, Saint Petersburg, Maribor, Satu Mare, Timisoara and Kanjiza. Their presence is an honour for us, as they reassure our vision that trust and theatre can only be built of quality. Theatre is presence and encounter – a true statement that previously had been taken for granted, and was relearned through their lack in the last period. There were months when all around the world we were expected to hold theatre rehearsals without the actors touching. But we have experienced that there is no theatre without touch. MITEM is going to be the celebration of experiencing the presence of touch together. This is our friendly outreach to the theatre of the world.
Director of the National Theatre,
artistic director of MITEM
(23 August 2021)