Bat Yam International Street Theatre Festival

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Bat Yam is off the map as far as the average Tel Aviv theatre-lover is concerned. Too far and too plebian – the perfect place for the Bat Yam International Street Theatre Festival which took place August 25 – 27th. Free in every sense of the word, the festival creates an encounter with a different art form that revels in the unexpected.

Artistic director Ati Citron culled together wildly diverse international and local artists for a three day carnival on the Bat Yam boardwalk. The uninitiated often misconstrue the art of street theatre, believing it to be the domain of spontaneous exhibitionists. They couldn’t be more wrong. The art of performing outdoors, confronting street crowds and attracting their attention, requires thought, creativity and serious rehearsals.

Although I had a neatly mapped out itinerary of performances I wanted to see, the crowds and noise dictated: abandon plans all ye who enter here – and I obeyed, drifting down the boardwalk, lingering to look and savor the passing moment accompanied by photographer Elizur Reuveni. Here are some of the highlights of our journey: 

Electric Invasions/Photo: Elizur Reuveni
Electric Invasions/Photo: Elizur Reuveni

Oh look – shiny!!! Had to stop to investigate…it seems the cube landed  several days before the start of the festival and began emitting strange noises. On the 25th creatures emerged and began roaming through the city. Intrepid photographer Reuveni crawled through the long pink passageway into the cube and discovered a creature inside, while this writer encountered a pink masked traveller from outer space and conducted a non-verbal interview. Some say the theatre group KUD LJUD from Slovenia are responsible for the pink invasion. As for me, I will always have my memories of a Bat Yam encounter of the strange kind, and a bit of pink fluff to treasure always.

 

Vüfenbach and Züfenheim arrive from Germöβstrumkampf/Photo: Elizur Reuveni
Vüfenbach and Züfenheim arrive from Germöβstrumkampf/Photo: Elizur Reuveni

 

 

with their cultural attache, Vagina/Photo: Elizur Reuveni
with their cultural attache, Vagina/Photo: Elizur Reuveni
This lively and comical group brought their heavily accented message of peace, unfortunately, I was swept away by the crowds before I could figure out exactly what they were trying to convey. Perhaps I’ll be able to catch them at the next stop on their tour — the Acco Fringe Theatre Festival in October.
As we made our way north up the boardwalk, we encountered some tall walkers who had a prophetic message for the crowd. These creatures from the theatre department of the Shazar high school in Bat Yam and the Sandciel School of Circus Arts, are the result of workshops led by members of the Teatr Biuro Podrozy . Members of the company (in Israel this past April for a performance of “Macbeth” at the Cameri) taught them an unusual form of theatre: creating characters and situations while walking on stilts. Costumes were designed by students from the Rakefet Levy School for Theatre Design.
Amusing and terrorizing the onlookers with prophecies that ranged from “You will drink an ice Aroma” (coffee drink) to telling one rather young woman “In 40 years and 10 minutes you will die,” the long legged creatures were elegant, funny and appropriately cruel.    

 

Cal Y Canto - A -TA - KA!/Photo: Elizur Reuveni
Cal Y Canto – A -TA – KA!/Photo: Elizur Reuveni

As we continued north along the beach, we were mesmerized by the swirling kites flown by the Cal Y Canto theatre group from Spain, who created a dance of light and color in the sky with shapes inspired by the sea.

 

And in case anyone was feeling a bit lost, worried or concerned in any way,

Dan was there to reassure one and all that “Everything is OK.”

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Wishes do come true, especially in the theatre, wherever it may be. I have always known that fairies are real, but the fairies we saw in Bat Yam (who arrived all the way from Theatre de l’Unite in France) were so very real — loud, fast, ominous and aggressive: everything a fairy should be. From the Carbohydrate Fairy to the Philharmonic – “I like to play on all sorts of instruments”, Falafel – no explanation needed, and the Fairy Queen – “Because in my heart, I am a princess”, they all rode their scooters with death-defying  intensity and did all the wonderful things that fairies do: granting wishes, frightening the common folk and singing to babies.

 

For those whose heart’s desire was not fulfilled by prophecy or fairies, there was the market. Director Sara Sibony and the uninhibited imaginative theatre group from Reka House in Yaffo, were prepared to sell anything and everything — including their mother. From a restaurant where every imaginable food is served, to tuna flavored aftershave or a new wardrobe — it’s a shopping experience unlike any other. 

 

At the end of the boardwalk, we saw an enormous yellow mechanical digger — unfortunately a sight that is not too unusual on Israel’s beaches, that are not protected by restrictions against construction. But this was something different: an experience that redefined grace, beauty, and dance . In the duet created by the French Compagnie Beau Geste, An elegant (and not at all young) man approached the digger as the music swelled and began a duet. Provocative, tender and beautiful, the duet between the two revealed the power of the dancer and the delicacy of the machine.

 

 One can only imagine what next year’s festival will bring.