ULICA International Festival of Street Theatres – Against the Dull Fire

YES, but who will cure us of the dull fire, the colorless fire…

Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch (1963)

(…) Oh book of Wisdom, where is the place for you in this age of mayhem, you peaceful book, you alloy of elements reconciled for ages by a gaze of an artist?

Czeslaw Miłosz

The ULICA Street Theatre Festival (organised by Teatr KTO) has once again illuminated the streets of Kraków with a robust and bewildering array of performances and events. The international troupes that participated not only amazed with their acts, dance shows, acrobatics, complex props and characters, but also staged a warning and call to action against a world where culture and our civilisation as a whole is in peril.

The main thread running through this year’s 30th edition of the festival has been Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, originally published in 1953. In his futuristic vision, Bradbury imagined a world without books, a world in which all forms of literature, art, philosophy as well as all individual, independent and liberal thinking, feeling and acquisition of knowledge are banned.

In his literary masterpiece, Hopscotch, Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar also contemplated an age where blind trust is placed in technology, science and all its byproducts (TV, Internet…):

How often I wonder whether this is only writing, in an age in which we run towards deception through infallible equations and conformity machines…

Through a narrative weaved to perfection, ULICA’s production F451 included readings from various books from The Bible to the speeches of Martin Luther King, passing through classics like Shakespeare, Mickiewicz, Dostoyevsky and Miłosz along the way. Moreover, through the symbol of Fire and its multiple associations (knowledge, power, destruction, warmth), the production created an ominous atmosphere where humans could be both victims and executioners: [A] reality of a [World] without Books – to which we will be doomed if we do not oppose the real and symbolic Fire. The Fire in which – along with the books we loose everything. But that fire, Cortazar proposes, is also a fire within ourselves: An invented fire burns in us, an incandescent ture, a whatsis of the race…

Cortazar’s rumination on the word and the world we invent for ourselves could serve as a complement to ULICA’s warning.

Everything is writing, that is to say a fable… Our possible truth must be an invention, that is to say, scripture, literature, picture, sculpture, agriculture, pisciculture, all the tures in this world. Values, tures, sainthood, a ture, society, a ture, love, pure ture, beauty a ture of tures (…)

A call to action that prompts us to imagine, create and ultimately write and keep a record of not only our lives, but how we live and share them. We, ourselves, are the saving ture, the cure to the spreading dull fire of our age.

Thanks ULICA for reminding us.

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