Our season celebrating the best of European theatre making should have opened in the Swan Theatre on 16 April 2020 but cannot now go ahead in Stratford as planned.

What is Europe - the cradle of modern civilisation? A political idea created for economic expansion? Or a geographical landmass with no shared future? At the heart of the European idea was a hopeful, humanist vision - but can that vision still be salvaged? And do we even want it to be?

This unique season should have opened to audiences in the Swan Theatre in April 2020. But as we closed our doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it became our first major casualty of this world crisis.

Projekt Europa

A MESSAGE FROM GREGORY DORAN and ERICA WHYMAN

It is hard to express how sorry we are that none of our plans for Projekt Europa can now go ahead. This unique season of work, conceived and led by Maria Aberg and curated by Maria and Judith Gerstenberg, was provoked by a conversation with us almost four years ago. We wanted to ask creative questions about our changing continent, to reflect on what we shared as theatre-makers and to celebrate our different traditions and instincts. What emerged was a captivating exploration of our shared histories and the questions we share about our ever more uncertain future.

It would have been the first time that the RSC had invited this number of remarkable European artists to collaborate on a single season. It was to be a profound, timely and theatrically dazzling experience. Whilst we are no longer in a position to produce this work in Stratford, we have committed to working with the Projekt Europa artists to try to find a way for these productions to make it to the stage. If you can, please take the time to read the words here by Maria and Judith about what they were in the middle of making when the theatres closed.  

We believe this work deserves to be seen so to those of you who bought tickets and gave this season your invaluable support, thank you, and we sincerely hope there will another chapter.

Gregory Doran and Erica Whyman

we are still here

Co-curators Maria Åberg and Judith Gerstenberg talk about where they go from here with Projekt Europa.

Rebecca Solnit - ‘Hope in the dark’

'Hope locates itself in the premise that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone, or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable.'

Europeana-hub-image

 

This is the story of where we are now.

When we started working on Projekt Europa almost four years ago, it sometimes felt like the idea was an enormous mountain we had set out to climb, where the opening night of Europeana on 16 April 2020 was our equivalent of reaching base camp.

Of course back then, right at the start, we didn’t even know Europeana was going to be part of the season. The entire season was just an idea – as intangible and unpredictable as ideas often are. Reaching the summit was a gamble, and risk is the only thing you could count on.

As we went on, the intangible became more real. More and more brilliant, inspirational artists joined us in creating Projekt Europa – actors, writers, directors, designers, musicians - investing in this expansive, hopeful idea, lending their imagination and creativity to the notion of something that didn’t yet exist but which would, at some point, become our reality.

 

For many of us working on the season, it was more than just ‘work’. It was the culmination of years of investigation and interrogation, fuelled by serious curiosity and intimate knowledge. For some of us, it was intensely personal, an opportunity to let our very roots nourish the work, a chance to bring our own lived and inherited experiences to the stage like never before. And for a few of us, it was the destination we had been heading for, creatively and spiritually, for a lifetime. It mattered deeply to all of us.

 

Peer-Gynt-hub-image

 

Our work grew out of this commitment. It was thrilling, and the work that was emerging was everything we’d hoped it would be – inventive, passionate, playful and profound. The days grew longer and fuller as that very first opening night approached.

Scattered across Europe

As it turns out, unpredictability is a reliable old dog. Instead of reaching the Europeana base camp together and launching the season into the world, we found ourselves scattered across Europe, isolated and quarantined, trying to make sense of how quickly, unexpectedly and completely the world can change. Because although we try to control it with our calendars and appointments, plans and projects, life is not predictable. It is chaotic, contradictory and complex. Narrative only exists in hindsight. 

But inside the unexpected, the potential for change is hiding.

 

In this new world, the various productions of Projekt Europa suddenly seem prophetic, incandescent with relevance. Europeana, a theatrical exploration of a European century so unpredictable, so chaotic and crammed full of the unexpected that it refuses traditional narrative, and where the only constant is community, resilience and hope Peer Gynt, which centres on an isolated individual, trapped in a tiny house, surrounded by demons and dreams? And Blindness and Seeing, an epic, dystopic drama about a society ripped apart by a mystery virus that challenges the very notion of civilisation?

Blindness-hub-image

 

The ideas we invested in have grown and morphed into something much bigger than we could ever have predicted. The stories in Projekt Europa are our stories, for this moment. Although the closure of the Swan means the season is now temporarily homeless, we are determined to find a way for the work to meet its audience somehow, somewhere.

When what we thought we could rely on falls apart, we’re left with what matters. In the unpredictable lurks opportunity. To redefine what we need, and how to build it. We can choose which stories we tell about who we are, and who we want to be. Stories that help us find new ideas, help us understand the world more fully, help us imagine the unimaginable to better deal with the real. Stories that are full of songs and sadness and brutality and compassion, and that become hands to hold in the dark when we need it most.

We are still here. We are still hoping. We will be back.

Maria Aberg, Judith Gerstenberg and the Projekt Europa company

 


 

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