Pip Utton in "Playing Maggie"; Credit: Andy Doornhein

The 12th edition of Fundamental Monodrama Festival will take place at Banannefabrik in Luxembourg-Bonnevoie from 20 to 29 May 2022.

A total of four (fully) English-language shows are on the programme this year – more than in most previous editions: At Home with Will Shakespeare; Playing Maggie; Kassandra; Levitations. Details of these and other performances can be found at the bottom of this article.

Chronicle.lu reached out to Festival Director Steve Karier ahead of this year's event to learn about how this multilingual solo performance festival has changed over the years, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and what is new this year, among other things. Mr Karier founded Fundamental asbl in 2009 and launched the first edition of Fundamental Monodrama Festival one year later.

Chronicle.lu: How has Fundamental Monodrama Festival evolved over the past twelve editions? Has its main goal remained the same?

Steve Karier: The main goal has remained the same: propose contemporary and international solo performance art. We still encourage national performances; we cooperate with international performers and coproduce shows. Over the years, the MonoLabo part has evolved: to present emerging artists with showcases of work in progress or of shorter form as part of the work progress with the option of programming the finished performance once available. We more than ever stand by their side and offer support during the creative process.

Chronicle.lu: What has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the organisation of the festival over the past two years? What were some of the challenges associated with organising the 2021 edition, for example, and has the organisation of this year's festival been less challenging in light of lifted restrictions?

Steve Karier: [It had a] big impact! 2020 had to be cancelled, 2021 was challenging as we could offer no more than 28 seats in the halls. We organised a simultaneous livestream on a big screen in the car park to host a bigger audience – a big challenge! Best weather conditions helping, this became a lovely experience for those who couldn't get seats inside. We had to change our catering offer – successfully again with Chiche's [Lebanese restaurant] food truck. But we truly suffered from travel restrictions: two African shows had to be cancelled at short notice due to a very restrictive visa policy; the wonderful Pip Utton got hit by the UK travel ban at very short notice. This was the very first time we had to cancel anything. A painful experience, I can tell you! And still a sad memory.

This year is easier to organise, but we still face visa problems.

Chronicle.lu: The festival traditionally takes place in June. What was the reason for holding this year's festival earlier than usual?

Steve Karier: An organisational problem with the venue. We will be back as usual next year, with the festival ending on the last Sunday before National Day.

Chronicle.lu: Was a conscious decision made to include more English-language performances this year? If so, why?

Steve Karier: We have always been plurilingual. There is nothing special about that: it just reflects the country's social reality. Yes, we offer more English-language shows in 2022, but that wasn't intentional from the start. It much depends on the season's catch. But this somewhat dominating presence might be stable for some time: a lot of performers use English if they can, to gain international availability. This is a shift from previous days; this is new.

What we want to do is to care more about communities in Luxembourg, English speaking as much as any other language, but with a new focus on the smaller communities who hardly ever get to experience stage performance in their home language. We had an outstanding show from the Czech Republic – cancelled due to health issues of the 78-year-old actress Marie Durnova, a legendary performer in Brno. We'll see for next year...

Chronicle.lu: How do you / the organising team decide which performers to approach and which performances to include in the programme? What criteria do you follow (e.g. mix of local and international acts, range of languages)?

Steve Karier: There is a mix to be respected, of course. Languages, countries, etc. A mix of forms, too: traditional theatre performance, movement theatre without speech, crossovers from music. We don't encourage submissions as this procedure is too abstract; we do not include anyone on files that are sent to us. We identify and approach them, we offer them a collaboration, we want to be close to them, get a feeling of who they are. Many are recommended by other professionals, former participants or by our informal "spies". After all, this is a festival made by performers for performers... And we take full responsibility for our picks.

Chronicle.lu: Are there new artists every year or are some of them "seasoned" Monodrama Festival performers?

Steve Karier: Many are new, some participate a couple of times, some regularly, some just once. The "seasoned" ones, as you call them, generally are very connected to Fundamental's other activities and collaborations, especially in Niger. But we do constantly look out for newcomers, for confirmed artists trying out new things and we reach out at them. So, change is essential to keep the festival alive, but continuity is very satisfying, too.

Chronicle.lu: Could you please tell us more about the event's partners and their role / involvement in the festival?

Steve Karier: Partners are important – it was important and helpful to carry on our collaboration with Chiche after last year's experience and to deepen it even. As is our festival band, the "So Long Orchestra", a bunch of professional musicians gently greeting the audience before shows but dropping the reins for an open end session afterwards, with guests. Got an instrument? Want to play? Come along!


- Friday 20 May @ 20:00: Hypervolk (Luxembourg; German and English) by Filip Markiewicz, with Lisa Schützenberger – a hybrid monologue that mixes different artistic concepts and tries to shed light on our hyper-mediatised time, faced with repeated crises and reinforced by globalised nationalism

- Saturday 21 May @ 20:00: Terre Rouge (Burkina Faso / Switzerland; French) by D'Aristide Tarnagda, with Urbain Guiguemdé – the actor crosses temporal and geographical barriers and penetrates vast poetic spaces and landscapes of the soul in this tale of two brothers from Burkina Faso. The play oscillates between -autobiography and fiction

- Sunday 22 May @ 19:00: Fissures (MonoLabo) (Niger; French) by Oumarou Aboubacari Bétodji, with Binta Soumana Siddo – a long cry of anger of the voiceless, namely young girls who have gone directly from childhood to adulthood through the actions of adults

- Sunday 22 May @ 20:00: La nuit juste avant les forêts (Benin; French) by Bernard Marie Koltès, with Bardol Migan – composed of a single sentence, this is the last breath of love and hope of a man at the bottom of the abyss who fights with the only weapon he still possesses: words

- Monday 23 May @ 20:00: Das Kalkwerk (Germany; German) by Thomas Bernhard, with Felix Römer – the German-language premiere of Thomas Bernhard’s early novel "The Lime Works", a complex surrealist work

- Tuesday 24 May @ 20:00: Der Fall D'Arc (Germany; German) by Maja Delinić and Philipp Sommer, with Philipp Sommer – a personal examination of the heroic figure of Joan of Arc

- Wednesday 25 May @ 20:00: At Home with Will Shakespeare (UK; English) by Pip Utton and William Shakespeare, with Pip Utton – British actor and playwright Pip Utton brings the famous William Shakespeare alive; not merely the probable writer of wonderful plays and poetry but a real man who loves, laughs, drinks, sings, dances and cries, and in between is forced to write some plays and poetry to make a living. This play replaces Czech actress Marie Durnova's cancelled performance

- Thursday 26 May @ 20:00: Kassandra (Greece; English) by Sergio Blanco, with Despina Sarafeidou – using the mythical Cassandra of Greek tragedy, playwright Sergio Blanco creates a one woman tour-de-force. Kassandra is performed in broken English by a protagonist who is simultaneously the Cassandra of ancient Greek tragedy and a transsexual immigrant prostitute in any city of the 21st century – an exile in her own body, a stranger in every country

- Friday 27 May @ 19:00: 331 Grams (MonoLabo) (Luxembourg; dance) by and with Isaiah Wilson – a piece about transformation and the pain that comes with the process of rebirth. 331 Grams aims to portray the condition of men today, by proposing an honest look at the emotional pressure that comes with men having to perform gender norms echoing from old patriarchal traditions

- Friday 27 May @ 20:00: Levitations (Belgium; English) by and with Hannah De Meyer - a landscape of thoughts; Hannah De Meyer creates poetical universes where hope and despair, being and not being, sexuality, love and death rub shoulders. Levitations is a residual space, a gap in time where nothing and everything happens

- Saturday 28 May @ 12:00: Playing Maggie (UK; English) by and with Pip Utton – not just a reflection on how to portray her but a live audience with Mrs Thatcher, the "Iron Lady". She divided the nation like no other politician, changing the face of British, even world politics forever. Listen again to her philosophies, her inspiration and her logic, and take the chance to ask her a question

- Sunday 29 May @ 19:00: Mother (MonoLabo) (Luxembourg; dance) by and with Emanuela Iacopini – a dance piece that wants to pay homage to creation and the desire to create; a poetic solo around the body and soul of water through the body and soul of the mother

- Sunday 29 May @ 20:00: Negare (Luxembourg; dance) by Giovanni Zazzera, with Alexandre Lipaux – a choreographic solo that immerses viewers in the discovery of a curious and atypical character who transports them to his absurd and poetic universe and who questions, through the state of the body, the order of the contamination of an idea, which letting bloom, turns into convictions of beliefs

- Every evening: So Long Orchestra

Tickets cost €20 per evening (reduced: €8 per evening) or €1.50 per evening with a Kulturpass. To book tickets, send an email with your name, telephone number and the number of desired tickets to reservation@fundamental.lu

Further information is available at fundamental.lu