October 28, 2021

(Tallinn) Rakvere city blog: Balto-scandalous


Out the city again, accompanied one time with mini-mass exodus of theatre patrons, performers and proles. This, as I’m led to understand, small sampling of the Tallinn cultural glitterati do not as such travel east in my lap – rather it’s an artfully staged movement – more mobility than Moses – towards the Bi-annual theatre festival BaltoScandal held in eastern Rakvere. Sardined on the floor of an under-sized coach, the take us there offers no time for solitude – though maybe fear of death (I’m crouched in the aisle faced straight out the windscreen – its a grand view but possibly in contravention of safety codes) It’s miserable, but free – so my thanks to the organisers regardless.


Rakvere itself is closer Russia than to the capital, its faux-futurism town-square screams its proximity. I’m surprised to later find the public space was sculpted post-revolution. We arrive straight to the theatre door though, and for all the woes of satellite towns left to rot, it’s an attractive and stylish modern venue.

Arriving at the party full swing and winding down (its Friday in the home straight) is rarely great for hi-jinx but does offer perspective – in this instance the character of the festival is all apparent. Microwave, fridge and freezer stand out in the car park on edge a pot-pourri of chairs and tables and empty wine bottles. As opposed to chaos brewed destruction, the scene is by design – an indicator of the open-source ethos of the gathering. The appliances are all plugged in – ‘it works’ they read – an alternative means of cooled alcohol to the not so overpriced official source inside. It says a lot, just what that is I’m not so clear (but for a performance centred festival perhaps that fits).


The week long souls, gamely taking on the whole shebang, are just stirring as my group’s first glasses empty – just in time for the first performance I’ll be seeing. Given its locale the festival has a more than impressive international line-up, with highly commended offerings from Finland (Juha Valkeapää & Taito Hoffrén), the UK (Forced Entertainment) and Japan at the top that list. Sadly the Finns have sold out long in advance, whilst the UK entry clashes with the ‘dance’ I tempt toward. The nonchalant and professional world-weariness of the long-established UK company at evening’s end makes me a little sad to have missed them.

I sample a more local offering, Henri Hütt – “SFÄÄRI SAARED (in order to dance) – a young Estonian here shares his stage with electro-performance artist father for the first time. There’s a likeable naivety on display, but in all it fails to capture. The air-ship shark is a brief highlight, but soon looks tired – one can’t help but think that props are doing just that – and as glass-plinth starlight sculptures are wheeled in to conclude, any narrative has long since lost me. A dance piece it really isn’t, un-visceral and raw as could be – though the father son mirror play is sweet enough. I dig the new-wave synth sounds courtesy of Hütt senior.

With a break till our next booking, its explore time. The town is small but has room for medieval castle in grip of ruin and clay court tennis on theatre grounds (I force a check on the Wimbledon scores throughout the day). The lazy vibe extends to sparkling wine and snack waiting times in some local art cafe – we’re almost running to the next performance.

current location

chelfitsch & Toshiki Okada’s (JPN) “Current Location” is on the edge of town, a railside warehouse converted post-urban style. Its an entirely professional affair, from the first sci-fisque words on screen my attention’s up. To invite cliche the thing’s a mix of Miyazaki, Tezuku and pinch of Murakami dumped on stage. An all girl cast ask the simple school room set to play the role of pre-disaster village, post-spaceship, exploring cultural resonance of the country’s recent tragedies. Dialogue-heavy, its burdened by a translation problem, eyes glued to the sky-high captions and missing too much of the acting – which when I catch it is intriguingly physical all nervous, twisted tense body language. Hands held, jaws thrust, everyone’s off balance. In all its gripping stuff, a curious exercise, a little burdened by over exposition and logistic issues, perhaps a more efficient cut would have blown it up. I’d watch more that’s for sure – just maybe not in one sitting.


The day’s last hurrah, Belgian t.r.a.n.s.i.t.s.c.a.p.e. bring the inflatable accordion bubble dance genre to the square. I have to say it leaves me cold, too safe movement, restricted where I want space and air. The town benches have foot rests though, so that’s a plus.

Question marks aside the festival is well worthwhile, its spirit a little free love for me to love but likeable besides, its got energy and spirit in spades. The impact zone of creativity crashed down outside the capital’s all in all a buzz.

The bus rides home at 2am, we barely make it zonked.



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