Spring brings Festivals to Europe. Music, theatre, dance and puppetry. In northern countries, the desire to shake off the winter cold is great, and artists fill the streets and theatres. In Germany, the FIDENA Festival has already launched its stunning programme and will take place from 16th to 24th May. As the Festival press release says, “To paraphrase Friedrich Schiller, when beauty appears in the garb of liberty, the international FIDENA(Figurentheater der Nationen) Festival in the Ruhr Metropolitan Area will surely be one of the most beautiful in its long history. For this year the invited companies and performers will be taking as many liberties as they can in order to give their visions an adequate form. More daring than ever before they will be presenting new types of theatre highlighting the influences of pictorial art on the latest forms of expression located somewhere between visual theatre, puppetry and object theatre, installations, dance and performance.”

Miet Warlop
Miet Warlop, Mystery Magnet. Foto Reinout Hiel.

24 artists and groups from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Russia, Iran, Belarus and Germany have been invited to appear at FIDENA 2014. More than forty programme points will be presented in Bochum, Herne and Essen over a period of ten days. These will include five world premières and six German premières.

Doktor Faustus
Puppentheater Magdeburg. Doktor Faustus. Foto Jesko Doering.

The link between the pictorial and the performing arts is particularly noticeable in the highlights in the festival programme. A good example here is Miet Warlop from Belgium who will be opening the festival in the Bochum Playhouse with a mix of skirmishes between action painting and cartoon characters. At PACT Zollverein in Essen the Russian collective AKHE will be displaying their anarchic attitudes to “heroes” against a background of pictorial art, alongside Eva Meyer-Keller who will literally be puling the strings in her choreography of objects. The Dutch choreographer Boukje Schweigman has based her extraordinary dance performance on years of research with monks in Asia. Her show in a former industrial building in Bochum will deal with the whip and its particular independent life. A highlight of the festival will be two commissioned shows from the Needcompany in Belgium. Its protagonists, Jan Lauwers and Maarten Seghers, are committed to the potentials involved in linking the transient experience of theatre with the long-term values of an installation or an exhibition. Last not least Duda Paiva will be showing that pictorial art is immanent in puppet theatre. At the end of the festival his life-size puppets will be taking on a life of their own in the Grillo Theatre in Essen.

Eva Meyer Keller
Eva Meyer Keller, Pulling Strings. Foto Eva Meyer Keller.

Since 1958 the “FIDENA – Figurentheater der Nationen – Festival” has been one of the most popular activities promoted by the Bochum “German Forum for Figure Theatre and Puppetry”, and one of the annual cultural highlights in Bochum. During this time it has presented more than 1000 shows from 45 countries. The range of important artists who have appeared at FIDENA is endless and the festival has an outstanding reputation. In the ears of Germans and foreign visitors alike FIDENA resonates with artistic adventures, aesthetic provocation, subversive tradition and intelligent fun.

AKHE, Gobo Digital. Foto Vladimir Telegin.

Object theatre has long outgrown the cliché of being all about sweet little puppets. Hence FIDENA’s programme will mostly be addressed to adults. This is not to say that children will be neglected. As always there will be daytime shows suitable for the very young.

Yase Tamam
Yase Tamam, Count To One. Foto Mani Lotfizadeh.

Furthermore there’s nothing to prevent adults taking older children to the evening shows. The FIDENA festival in Bochum is widely regarded by specialists in international circles as a festival which puts an emphasis on innovation. At its centre stands the meeting of arts and artists. This aspect of the festival is underlined by the inclusion of theatre students from Bochum and graduate puppeteers from Berlin and Stuttgart, by a large international symposium and several rounds of talks. Observers from all over the world regularly travel to FIDENA. There is now an active network of 85 festival heads from all four corners of the globe, the so-called “Tucholsky Connection”, who will be meeting up once more in Bochum in 2014.

Skappa Swift
Skappa! & Associés, Swift. Foto Christophe Loiseau.

FIDENA’s regional and international reputation as a highly popular platform for daring and challenging “figure theatre” has been continuously reflected over the years in its cooperation with other institutions. These include the Bochum Playhouse, the Essen Playhouse, PACT Zollverein, the Ruhr University Bochum, the “Theater an der Ruhr” in Mülheim, the “Ruhrfestspiele” in Recklinghausen, the Netherlands Theatre Institute, not forgetting the festival’s inclusion in the top-class programme of the “Ruhrtriennale”.

Wilde Vogel
Wilde Vogel, Alice. Foto Therese Stuber.

By cooperating with cultural institutions in neighbouring towns and cities FIDENA is pursuing the core idea of RUHR 2010 and its philosophy of regionalising the Ruhr area by culture. Hence its actions are helping to promote the vision of the Ruhr Metropolitan area on a sustainable basis.

Duda Paiva
Duda Paiva, Bastard. Foto JakaIvanc.

The festival’s CEO and artistic director is the director Annette Dabs. She has an active honorary position on the German board of the International Theatre Institute and is Vice- President of the “Union Internationale de la Marionnette”. In 2009 she was awarded the Ring of Honour by the city of Bochum.

Annette Dabs
Annette Dabs. Foto Simon Bauks.

+ info: www.fidena.de