Luxembourg will host FEATS, the Festival of European Anglophone Theatrical Societies, from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 May 2022 at Mierscher Kulturhaus in Mersch.
FEATS is a pan-European celebration of English-language theatre that takes place in a different location each year. In 2022, after two years of virtual performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FEATS is returning with an in-person festival, hosted by the New World Theatre Club (NWTC) of Luxembourg at Mierscher Kulturhaus.
Under the theme "Changing Times", experienced theatre companies from across Europe will deliver twelve perfomances on the main stage (three plays per evening), whilst a Fringe programme is scheduled for the afternoons. This year, in line with the aforementioned theme, FEATS has adopted a more open approach, offering for the first time different staging possibilities.
Speaking to Chronicle.lu, FEATS 22 Director John Brigg explained how the festival has evolved since its creation in the late 1970s, the impact of the pandemic, this year's highlights and the importance of English-language theatre in general.
Note that a first festival was organised by the Anglo-American Theatrical Group (AATG) in Rotterdam (Netherlands) in 1976, although the first festival held under the name "FEATS" took place in 1978 - the same year in which Luxembourg's NWTC joined the steering committee.
Chronicle.lu: How has FEATS evolved over the years?
John Brigg: FEATS has evolved, of course. For one thing, it has grown in following with many more groups involved than at the outset. Then there have been additions such as the Fringe and the encuragement of new writing. But the core festival, with three plays a night and an adjudicator using a marking sheet to decide the winners, has stayed pretty much the same.
Chronicle.lu: Could you please elaborate on the new approach to be taken this year?
John Brigg: We've taken a number of steps in a new direction this year. Not greatly significant in terms of the whole festival - the baby is still in the bath - but innovations nonetheless. We are able to take advantage of the configuration of the Kulturhaus in Mersch to bring actors and audiences closer together by having them all on the same (starting) level and by providing a thrust stage with side seating.
Yet perhaps, for me, the most important new approach has been to replace the adjudicator with an evaluator. This might not sound much, but the consequnce is that FEATS 22 is not competitive, there are no prizes awarded after adding up the marks, but rather a frank and justified acknowledgement of good work. Instead of the pear being crowned the best, the different excellences of both apple and pear are highlighted. As a corollary, this loosens the "strictures" of finding a good "festival" play which will tick all the boxes on the marking sheet.
Chronicle.lu: What were some of the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic? Have these challenges now been overcome?
John Brigg: Well, the festival never took place in 2020 and only as a perforce watered-down online version in 2021.
But the effect of the pandemic is not over. Some groups were unable to accept the invitation to participate in FEATS 22 because of financial difficulties (if you're not performing, there's no income) and audiences are still reluctant to attend. This is a general trend, not limited to FEATS, but it does make it a lot more difficult to balance the books.
Chronicle.lu: How is it decided which groups should perform at the festival?
John Brigg: The FEATS Steering Committee, the body which ensures the continuation of the festival, selects the participants accoring to when they last attended - there is no selection of works presented. New groups must first "prove their mettle" on the Fringe, and so there is then no need to select according to the perceived "quality" of the proposed piece. This results in an exciting and varied mix of plays.
Chronicle.lu: This is not the first time Luxembourg has hosted the festival. How is the venue chosen?
John Brigg: It will be the 8th time NWTC has hosted FEATS and the- I think - 5th venue. Requirements are that it should have all the facilities (lights, sound, projection) of a good theatre, enough audience capacity, be accessible, and be affordable. And be available. Not an easy mix to find.
Chronicle.lu: In your opinion, what is the importance of English-language theatre in Luxembourg and in Europe as a whole?
John Brigg: It's becoming more and more important. While the proportion of native English-speakers is starting to deline, English is fast becoming the most widely spoken language, and is the language of choice (or necessity) between different language groups working together. So for me, the future of FEATS lies with tapping into these new English-speaking groups. And they have different ideas which need to be somehow encompassed.
The following theatre groups will take part on the main stage: AATG, The Hague; Anglophone Collaborative Theatre of Stuttgart (ACTS); Brussels Shakespeare Society (BSS); ECC, Brussels; English Youth Theatre (EYT), Brussels; Frankfurt English Speaking Theatre (FEST); HoM, Luxembourg; homerostheater, The Hague; InPlayers, Amsterdam; Irish Theatre Group (ITG), Brussels; Lucerne World Theatre Company (LWTC); The Hamburg Players.
The Fringe programme features twelve groups and ensembles from Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland and will take place in the garden of Maison Servais (hosted by the Centre National de Littérature) on 27 May and at Café Beim Méchel (across the courtyard from Mierscher Kulturhaus) on 28 and 29 May.
The full programme and additional details are available on the aforementioned websites.