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Beyond the main stage—here are our favorite performances from the cultural scene of Sziget Festival

Headliners attract people to a festival, and they steal the show, but a festival can be more than just the main stage and the encore. Sziget is what it is for a reason, and although the posters only show big names, now we took a look at what is behind the “and many others…” at the bottom of the list. This year, we went against the crowd and started a cultural treasure hunt, showing what would be the three performances that we would take with us to an uninhabited island.

Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre

Almost all artists can say that after a while art becomes work. But there are some arts that are created specifically because of work. Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre is the equivalent of the Vietnamese national theater, so when we first see the lacquered wooden pieces and the stage filled with water up to the waist, we are not looking at the subcultural performance of an alternative company. The puppeteers of the theater coming to Hungary from Ha Noi work in a privileged position in their own country, where they simultaneously nurture the centuries-old traditions of the water puppet theatre and adapt their stories to an environment suitable for contemporary inclusion. With the water stage, those rice fields appear before us where the genre was born, with which they entertained each other at the end of the whole day’s work—or sometimes during it. The actors moving wooden pieces dancing on the surface of the water were then hidden in a pagoda, and now they tell their stories from behind a magnificent scenery. We also had the opportunity to talk to them about these stories, which include acts dating back hundreds of years and those written specifically for this occasion. It’s a good thing they stay the whole time, and they perform every day in the Global Village.

Sacude Company—Euforia

If, after all these years, it is still necessary for the Island of Freedom to prove that it is faithful to its name, by inviting the performance of the Sacude Company called Euforia, we totally believe it. The airborne acrobats from Barcelona embody a dreamlike performance in the air for 30 minutes every day at 11:15 p.m. at the Giant Street Theatre. The choice of the name of the performance is not some flowery language, which is fortunate, because we came with high expectations just for this reason, but we enjoyed what happened in front of our eyes and above our heads with our eyes focusing on them and our jaws on the floor. The word euphoria has many meanings, but we think that the simplest thing after this performance would be to simply have this show in the dictionary next to the article. Sacude creates a vertical dance on a rectangular platform posted at an astonishing height—it serves as a stage, a dance floor, a ’springboard’, and a basis for the dancers for a choreography to take advantage of the potential of contemporary dance. We already feel that we are a few meters above the ground at Sziget, but this performance takes airiness to the next level.

Willany Leó

Anything can happen at a festival, especially at Sziget. This year, we set the course for an improvisational performance, and in the performance of the Willany Leó company, we found exactly what we expected. Although the essence of the improvisation is that the only thing we can count on is the unpredictability of the performance of the Willany Leó company, which has brought us exactly what we wanted.  The team of freelance dancers is even more spontaneous, and one of their members, András Engelmann, told us that the meeting just before the performance is ‘only’ about everyone sharing with each other how they are at the moment, what feelings they arrived with, what mood they have. So they start dancing, reacting to each other, moving together, which can take a new direction at any time, depending on who’s bringing what into the event. Sziget is the perfect place for this, because even on the road between the entrance gate and the stage, the dancers get so much impulse that the fullness of the performance is guaranteed. We were happy to see it, because it won’t be the same again, that’s what we love about improvisation.

Photos: Dániel Gaál

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