The Israel Festival: a Special Focus on its Nightshifts

by Gaia Regoli

Two weeks and a half of pure artistic entertainment. Established in 1961, the Israel Festival is considered to be one of the most anticipated events of the year, transforming the city into a very active artistic and cultural venue that many people from all over the world come to attend and enjoy. This year, the Jerusalem Foundation decided to support especially the two Nightshifts of the festival, characterized by impressive performances.

Israel Festival Opening Lights

 

On may 30th, colourful lights were projected on the façade of the Jerusalem Theatre, in front of which several people gathered. In the backstage of the theatre, drinks and snacks were served and, while either drinking, eating, or doing both, people were surrounded by waterfalls of light. Underneath one of these bright lights, the Festival was officially opened.

As for what concerns me, since the Foundation supported the Nightshifts programme of the Festival, occurring on Thursdays, I had the opportunity to attend most of the events involved.

The performance Protagonist, by the Swedish choreographer Van Dinther, took place on June 6th and represented my first real approach to the Israel Festival. The performance was formed by two parts, displaying completely naked performers in the second one. The dancers’ aim was to show the struggles of the human mind, which is never able to rest as infinite thoughts cross it in a neverending flow.

Israel Festival Night Shift 1 Man

 After this introspective dance in the Sherover Theatre, the audience moved to the Henry Crown Hall to assist to Put Your Heart Under Your Feet…And Walk by Steven Cohen. A man walking on high heels, with a butterfly-like make up, wearing a skirt made of record players suddenly appeared on the stage, which was covered by in ballet shoes.

In the background, an intense video showed the same performer surrounded by dead animals and covered in their own blood. This last detail happened to shock many people, who started to leave the room. Indeed, a strong scene that was hard to accept, especially in our contemporary society which is fighting against cruelty towards animals. 

The second and last Nightshift was on June 13th. At 8pm started the vocal performance Songs of Lear, and, for a whole hour, I was overwhelmed by the talent and extraordinary voices of the actors.

Israel Festival Songs Of LiarThe play was a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. Each scene had to be interpreted as a painting, expressed by voices instead of colours. Even better, what the Song of the Goat Theatre (a theatre group based in Wroclaw) did, was to transform a famous play into one of Kandinsky’s paintings, in which each colour reminds of a certain sound.

Afterwards, the Jerusalem theatre hosted The Night of the Moles by Philippe Quesne, which gave the audience the impression of finding themselves into a giant cave. At the beginning of the show, several furry moles broke into a box and then destroyed it. This introduction was followed by the attempt of the same moles to initiate a rock band. The reaction of the public was straightforward: loads of laughs and amusement. A funny performance, although it was hard to understand whether it was supposed to be only a comedy or whether there was a deeper underpinning message. 

Finally, the evening was concluded with the show Suddenly Everywhere Is Black With People, by the Brazilian choreographer Marcelo Evelin. The public found itself into a dark room, where eyes could hardly be trusted. A group of five naked dancers, totally painted in black, started to bump into the people who were watching the performance. As the dancers were hugging one another, they could be considered as one single entity rather than different identities. Besides, it was interesting to see the reaction of the people who almost felt like they were chased by these naked performers. It was possible to hear some of them laughing, expressing their evident, and understandable, sense of unease. If I had to rename the whole performance, I would definitely link the title to the power of collective action and to the fear of the unknown other.

Overall, the Israel Festival proposed challenging, experimental and interactive shows, that could be more or less appreciated but which were for sure worth being seen.