Bitef Polyphony by Nina Horvat

Bitef Polyphony  experience

writen by Nina Horvat

September  2015


*Nina Horvat drama writer and  theatre pedagogue from Croatia  writes her impressions after spending a week in Belgrade as a member of the Social media managers team on the 16th Bitef Polyphony program ( 17th – 25th  September). Bitef Poliphony  has participated in the NG Placements program  on  the invitation of ASSITEJ Serbia.

Thanks to the Next Generation Placements I had the opportunity to observe the Bitef Polyphony festival in Belgrade, Serbia. Through watching performances and listening to lectures on the “THEATRE WITHIN CONTEXT… and not just theatre” symposium that was organized within Polyphony, I learned about different forms of socially engaged theatre and I was able to see how theatre practitioners approach taboo themes in Serbia.

I was impressed with the successful collaboration between theatre professionals and amateurs on some performances because that is not very common in my country. In most performances the performers were young people who were dealing with very important themes, such as tolerance. Through working on such a performance, not only are they learning about theatre, they are also learning how to think for themselves and how to speak their mind. The Bitef Polyphony program mainly consisted of socially engaged performances that mostly dealt with consequences of wars and interethnic intolerance. There were also Community Theatre, Applied Theatre and Inclusive Theatre projects who dealt with other themes and with integration of often marginalized groups. Having said that, I wasn’t clear on how two or three performances fit into the repertory politics of the festival.

The symposium “THEATRE WITHIN CONTEXT… and not just theatre” lasted for three days and consisted of six dialogues and three workshops. The themes of the dialogues were very interesting, but the problem was there was often no time left for questions and discussions with the audience, so the dialogues were mostly turned into monologues of the lecturers.


My assignment within the NG Placements program was to observe the festival and help out with the social media managing. I wrote short reports after programs and posted them on social media so it would fulfill one of it’s main goals – immediate communication.

The event that affected me the most happened during the conversation with the audience after one of the performances. The performance was “Concrete Hood” in which eight young people from their own experience talk about intolerance and hatred in their own town very directly. During the conversation, a gentlemen said that those eight young people are not enough to make a change, a critical mass is needed. True, eight people can’t change society all by themselves. But they can help create that much needed critical mass by performing and loudly speaking their mind. The performance was forbidden in their home town and the performers and their families were under a lot of pressure. But if the politicians who run the city didn’t think there were like-minded people in their town and that there was a chance things could change for the better, they wouldn’t obstruct and forbid the performance. This only means that eight young people really can change something. And that theatre has power. This is something I sometimes forget, but I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Next Generation Placement gave me an opportunity to learn new things about socially engaged theatre, to meet colleagues who think about theatre in a similar way and to maybe realize some collaborations in the futures. And last but not least, I spent a week in a country that I visited only once before, even though it borders mine. There were no borders between those two countries not so long ago. I was born in a large country but grew up in a much smaller one, a fragment of a bigger whole. By spending time in the nearby “fragment”, I realized how similar these fragments really are and how they functioned as a whole.