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Avignon Festival heads in new direction with echoes from the past

The programme for the 68th Avignon Festival.
The programme for the 68th Avignon Festival. DR

The programme for the 68th Avignon Festival, one of the largest annual international theatre events in the world, has been unveiled in Paris.

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A new chapter opens in 2014 as French stage director Olivier Py takes over as head of the Festival after stints at the helm of Theatre of Europe at the Odéon in Paris and the Orléans National Drama Centre. Py also had an almost 30-year career as an actor.

Py is actually the first stage director in charge since the Festival was founded by Jean Vilar in 1947.

A regular himself over the years in Avignon, Py said he is maintaining the Festival's trade-mark international mix of performing arts, but he wanted to give it a north-south focus.

“The North-South content consists of a major programme from Greece as well as many events and shows from the Arab countries. The need to do this stems from Avignon itself because the city Avignon is a real theatre of cultural diversity; a mixture from North Africa, Spain, Italy and France,” he explained.

While the Greeks may represent the back-bone of the Festival this year, all five continents are included. Amongst others, South African choreographer Robyn Orlin (At the Same Time We Were Pointing a Finger at You…); from New Zealand, Lemi Ponifasio with “I am”; a play from Chile called La imaginacion del futuro directed by Marco Layera; from Europe, a wide range of works; from Asia, a North-South mix by Japanese director Satoshi Miyagi with the Indian mythological epic, the Mahabharata, in under two hours.

While that’s a novelty in terms of running time, Py and his team have chosen to preserve the Festival’s now legendary marathons with an 18-hour production of Shakespeare’s Henry VI by up and coming French director Thomas Jolly.

The Avignon Theatre Festival runs from July 4th to July 27th - http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/

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