PRAGUE: Brazil and Croatia topped the 12th edition of the Prague Quadrennial for Performance Design and Space. These two countries were the major winners, with each taking home two PQ gold medals at this year’s award ceremony held June 21 at the New Theater of the National Theatre of Prague. Other awards went to Latvia, Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico, Greece, the UK and Norway
Brazil grabbed the coveted Golden Triga for the Best Exposition. Speaking in behalf of this year’s PQ jury members, South African director Brett Bailey stated that the Golden Triga Award should go to countries that “make brave, courageous choices that push the frontiers. Bailey described the extent to which the Brazil exhibition “offers a vivid sense of national identity and opens new scenographic horizons.” In particular, the judges felt that Brazil excelled in giving equal weight to site-specific work, puppetry, social commentary plays, and more conventional theatre — all of which, Bailey said, “were presented with flair, sensitivity and style.”
Within that prized Brazil exhibition, the judges of this year’s PQ singled out for Best Realization of a Production Teatro da Vertigem za/for its 2006 production of BR-3 at Tiete River in Sao Paulo, which the judges praised for “its creative use of unconventional space.” “This extraordinary urban intervention,” the judges said, “transforms the main artery of the city with creative use of unconventional space: the banks of the Tiete River, the river itself and the barge on which the audience travelled and much of the dramatic action occurred. The audience was completely immersed in a performance that brought to life and further provided a social critique of the landscape it traverses.”
“The feeling [of winning two PQ medals] is indescribable,“ says Antonio Grassi, curator of the Brazil national pavilion, soon after the ceremony. “These two prizes are a collective win for all the designers from Brazil.“
Croatia’s Numer/For Use impressed this year’s judges greatly, winning two gold medals for Best Use of Theatre Technology and Best Best Stage Design. In a speech, jury member Monika Pormale praised Numer/For Use for Croatian team of industrial designers’ “creative use of stripped-down, essentialized and compelling scenography in the various collaborative theatrical projects.” The judge also singled out Croatia’s “bold, simple yet multilayered interpretations” of such dramas as A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In the theatre technology category, jury member Felice Ross honored Numer/For Use’s “use of both high and low technology” and its “rigorous research” and its “re-imagination of conventional scenography in their various performance works.”
Greece and Mexico shared commendations for Best Work in Theatre Architecture and Performance Space, with each country winning gold medals. Jury member Marvin Carlson, who handed out this award, cited the Mexican architectural exhibit’s Teatro Ojo’s Within a Failing State in which “abandoned government building and public spaces of Mexico City” which were refigures as “sites of memory” and of “activism” that reflected “previous authoritarian abuses.” The architectural work in Greece, Carlson added, showed “a large degree of creative imagination and flexibility on a human scale” given “the highly constrained spatial requirements” of the site.
Intriguingly, although Brazil won the Golden Triga reserved for Best Exposition, the judges felt compelled to honor Hungary with a gold medal for the Best Curatorial Concept of an Exposition. Hungary, the judges said, was commended for its “conceptual unity” and its “enigmatic, metaphorical world” which focuses on “the plight of the artist” in contemporary society.
In the Extreme Costume Exhibition, Emma Ransley was the victor for Best Theatre Costume for her work in Inhabiting Dress. Ransley’s costume, produced in 2008 in Wellington, New Zealand, showed “extreme stylization” and “conceptual strength,” the judges said.
In the hope of giving greater consideration to the sound design —“a vital but often under-represented” field — the judges gave a special award for Outstanding Sound Design to two U.K. designers: Dan Jones (for B. Lavery’s Kursk directed by Sound&Fury at Young Vic Theatre in London) and Kathrine Sandys (whose Hush House was produced for Aldeburgh Music / Faster Than Sound in Suffolk).
In the student section, Lativa won a gold medal for the Best Exposition in the Student Section. Two designers who worked in the same Norwegian production—Annick Lavallée-Benny (Canada) and Jakob Oredsson (Sweden) — were cited by the judges as the Most Promising Talent. Both artists designed a gallery-scaled block of wood for the Norwegian Theatre Academy za’s show called Erase the Play in 2010. — By RG