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Basel theatre festival to keep personal touch

An ambition of Christoph Stratenwerth, the director of the Theatre Festival Basel, is to make sure the event remains the second-largest of its kind in Switzerland.

This content was published on July 7, 2000 - 07:46

This year's event, the fifth since it began in 1991, features 12 groups, 13 productions and 58 performances over 18 days. And for Stratenwerth that's the saturation point. He's happy being number two in size behind the Zurich theatre festival.

"If we became bigger we would lose the personal touch the festival still has. It would change the character of the festival and make it too much like what big cities have. Twelve thousand, 13,000, 14,000 spectators is fine for a city like Basel."

Stratenwerth's personal touch has been evident in the course and growth of the Theatre Festival Basel from the beginning.

"The idea is to give the audience here a chance to see what is going on in contemporary theatre in other countries, in other languages and in other cultures. We want to show audiences that there's a lot of interesting work going on that they wouldn't have a chance to see without a festival like this."

Between August 28 and September 10, audiences will be treated to performances by groups from France, Germany, Britain, Switzerland, Bulgaria, South Africa and Argentina in a programme that has been put together personally by Stratenwerth.

"For me it's an absolute rule. I have to see every performance I want to present. This is not a festival where commissions are responsible for the programme. I have to see the stuff, otherwise I can't sell it."

Stratenwert says his selection procedure is something like fishing. You need a great deal of patience.

"Sometimes I observe companies for years before I decide to invite them - and I invite them only when I'm sure that the company is going to survive the experience."

He says many festivals invite companies whose performances don't come up to high audience expectations.

"They expect to be deeply touched emotionally. They expect to understand the piece and they expect to be invited to see the world in a way they have never done before."

Presenting their view of the world this year are such groups as Théâtre du Soleil from Paris with "Tambours sur la Digue", Ton & Kirschen Wandertheater from Germany with "Doctor Faustus", Faulty Optic from Britain with "Tunnel Vision", TG Stan of Belgium with "JDX-A Public Enemy" and the Handspring Puppet Company of South Africa with "The Chimp Project".

by Paul Sufrin

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