"As a British-Romanian company a lot of people ask us how we make work, and specifically how we make work between the UK & Romania, especially because our work is overtly political. Part of our practice is to share knowledge and exchange practice - so we’ve decided to demystify at least a little of how we make it work."
Claire Gilbert discusses BÉZNĂ Theatre's British-Romanian practice in advance of their show wipe these tears, coming to Camden People's Theatre 11-22 Oct.
So first things first - I’m Claire, the UK based Producer for BÉZNĂ Theatre. We’re bringing our newest show wipe these tears to CPT in Oct 2022. We were last here with our People’s Tribunal (9-11 Sept 2021) and before that ILLEGALISED in 2019, which was the first time being back in the UK in 5 years. There are a few things to know about the difference between how work is made in Romania & how work is made in the UK.
In the UK we have NPOs (National Portfolio Organisations) who are large subsidised buildings, commercial spaces & fringe spaces (sometimes fringe can be NPO, or subsidised or commercial!)
In Romania they have State, Private & Independent theatres. Independents are closer in scale to our fringe and State to our NPOs. The issue is that state funding comes with an unspoken obligation to not rock the boat.
So far, not too dissimilar. But here’s where the split happens. Work in Romania is presented in Rep, rather than tours, 3 week runs or any of the models most UK venues work to. Instead we work towards an opening night, maybe 1 or 2 further performances. In a state theatre the show will be programmed once a month, in the independent scene you can become part of the venue’s regular programming or you can keep fundraising to pay your collaborators to perform more. Then you have 1-2 days re-rehearsal and the show is back again.
Your actors are probably also working both in the State rep system & your fringe work: our associate artist Oana Pușcatu at one time knew 16 different shows that she could perform after going through blocking and a few lines. When she came to the UK in 2019 to do ILLEGALISED she was shocked to realise she was rehearsing 1 show for 3 weeks and then performing it 15+ times in a row.
Our education work is our most regular presence in Romania at present - we’ve done residencies working with performers & non performers & our associate Angel Lopez-Silva ran a summer workshop programme for young people at CEVA Centru, Târgu Neamț.
Both systems have strengths. Both systems have weaknesses. Our work has been faced with resistance and censorship in both countries.
In the UK we love the space and time to be able to work as a collective who are dedicated to one project at a time, to improvise around scenes, play, build a communal language and understand the geography of all spaces we present to audiences.
In Romania we love the opportunity for the show to continue running so it isn’t a ‘one chance’ to see it. We love that political work is mostly free, how diverse our audiences are, and that there is a sense of community between political theatre makers.
So what we’ve brought with us from Romania to the UK is our desire to make work free for as many people as possible (we have streamed lots of our work through GLOD - which you can check out here) - and where we can’t do that, never charging more than 1 hour living wage for a ticket.
What we’ve brought from the UK to Romania is an approach to the text & rehearsals that encourages experimentation, that is not about going through the motions, but understanding the core questions of the piece to be able to communicate to anyone watching.
Currently, we are just a British organisation. Not a charity, but we operate not for profit - with an open books policy where if anyone in any role on a project wants to see the budget, they can. Post Brexit we are now working with a Romanian Producer & Lawyer to set up a legal organisation in Romania so we can continue to work between both countries and with our peers as it becomes increasingly harder to collaborate across borders.
We are constantly walking the line between how much multilingual work we make here in the UK, and how much we make in Romania, and I am not sure we have struck the balance yet. We continue to see societal violences in both countries that push us on, continue to work with phenomenal peers who inspire us, and meet people who we want to collaborate with and share that theatre can be for them too.
www.beznatheatre.org | @beznatheatre | contact@beznatheatre/org
11-22 Oct at 7pm
Tickets £12 (£10 concessioned, £8 students)