In an authentic ambience, under the open sky, as in the time of the greatest playwright ever, last night, on September 16, the curtain was lowered to a standing ovation at the 7th Shakespeare Festival. This unique festival, held in the garden of the magnificent Villa Stanković in Čortanovci, was symbolically by the play “My Shakespeare”, directed by Nikita Milivojević. The play featured a slew of actors – Svetozar Cvetković, Svetlana Bojković, Zijah Sokolović, Vojislav Brajović, Milica Mihajlović, Nebojša Dugalić, and Jelena Đulvezan. Along with the acting ensemble, the translator Zoran Paunović, transported the works of Shakespeare, the greatest playwright ever, to the present, showcasing him through the adventures behind the scenes and the experience that actors gained by performing his plays.
During the five festival days, the audience enjoyed an unusual combination of music and comedy. The Festival opened with a concert titled “Beethoven and Shakespeare”, performed by the Belgrade Philharmonic String Quartet. In an almost intimate, unique festival atmosphere, the audience was in a way included in the outdoor theatrical performances, just like during Shakespeare’s era. Music was the basis and inspiration for creating the idea behind the play “As You Like It”, a romantic comedy that was a result of cooperation between the National Theatre from Niš, the Kruševac Theatre and the International Nišville Jazz Festival, based on the concept devised by Nikita Milivojević. The audience also had the opportunity to enjoy the performance of the Šabac Theatre which staged the comedy “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, directed by Mia Knežević, but also to watch the famous drama by Tom Stoppard about two supporting characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet “Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, performed by the Serbian National Theatre from Novi Sad and directed by Igor Pavlović.
After the closing of this year’s, 7th Shakespeare Festival, Nikita Milivojević, the Festival’s founder and director, said: “Our intention and motive to bring back a smile to the audience turned out to be true. One of the things I will remember about this festival is that, during the five festival days, we could see a lot of joy in the audience and on the stage, which was especially nice. I can say that the festival was even better than we expected, having in mind the changed concept due to the current circumstances. Another thing I think is important is to note that Shakespeare is also staged in smaller theatres and towns, such as Šabac, Subotica, Niš, Kruševac and Zrenjanin, and that is very encouraging.”
The Shakespeare Festival is a unique cultural event which the European Network of Festivals officially included in the list of the most important drama festivals in Europe last year. The Festival is designed to evoke Shakespeare’s time in an authentic way by performing outdoors and nurturing the memory of the world’s greatest playwright. Vojvodina’s government, the Municipality of Inđija, the Ministry of Culture, the City of Novi Sad, UNIQA insurance company and MTS Telekom Serbia have been the festival’s supporters since its inception.
“Shakespeare himself said that faith in joy is almost the same as joy itself. It brings us joy to see that this festival, which has been a favourite with fans of art and culture, has been growing with us for seven years now. We all need more laughter, optimism and good energy, and you can get it all in this unique place, where, in Shakespeare’s spirit, joy and cheerfulness have definitely found their way to the audience,” said Sonja Marić, Marketing and Corporate Communications Director at UNIQA.
Although held in changed circumstances that brought a new concept of the festival’s programme that did not include foreign guest appearances, the new festival dates and a smaller number available seats in the audience, the 7th Shakespeare Festival demonstrated just how much the audience was yearning for theatre. Tickets were sold out on the first day when the Festival was announced. Lovers of art are looking forward to 2021 and another “theatrical holiday” like the 8th Shakespeare Festival.