Espoo is set to welcome its first international performing arts festival, &Fest – Focus Gent, in March 2024, showcasing six central European performances. Produced by Espoo Theatre, the festival turns its spotlight towards Belgian theater, offering a diverse range of styles across three stages: &Revontuli, &Louhe, and House of Dance. Inspired by the city of Ghent's values - united, offbeat, groundbreaking - the festival aligns with the ethos of exploring new frontiers, challenging the status quo, and fostering unity.
Erik Söderblom, director of &Fest, described Ghent as one of Europe's most intriguing theater cities and emphasized the absence of a major performing arts festival in the Finnish capital region. The festival aims to fill this void with world-class performances that offer new perspectives and foster conversations about performing arts and global issues.
The festival kicks off at House of Dance with Miet Warlop's contemporary performance, ONE SONG. Blending elements of modern dance, marathon athleticism, and rock concerts, ONE SONG was hailed as one of the best performing arts works of 2022 by The New York Times. It's part of the Belgian NTGent theatre's series Histoire(s) du Théâtre IV, inviting directors to narrate their journey in theater-making.
NTGent also presents Antigone in the Amazone, with Swiss theater director, journalist, lecturer, author, and filmmaker Milo Rau documenting the local population's fight over land in the Amazon. This new work continues Rau's activist theater art, delving into communities and socio-political phenomena.
Making its first appearance in Espoo is the production house CAMPO, known for its collaborative and experimental works with artists in Ghent. Among its rising stars is director and artist Jaha Koo, whose creation Cuckoo engages in a tragicomic dialogue with coded smart rice cookers, reflecting on the impacts of South Korea's economic collapse in the early 2000s.
Regular favorites at &Fest include Ontroerend Goed, known for immersive and gently interactive pieces, presenting Funeral, a ritual of farewell free from traditional and religious constraints. Circus Ronaldo, a beloved act in Espoo, returns for the sixth time with a new-generation-led Swing cabaret and circus performance.
Beyond the performances, &Fest will feature artist meetings, discussions, professional events, and celebrations. This festival not only brings high-quality international art to the public but also shares expertise with the professional community. The festival is made possible by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, the city of Ghent, and Flanders State of the Art.
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