We’ve returned to Bosnia-Herzegovina to tour Bolero the day before the country’s general election – and there are political posters adorning every visible surface. Our first stop: Sarajevo, on the last day of MESS International Theatre Festival, and we’re back at our co-producing theatre SARTR. The get-in was smooth because we’d already played the show here back in June, during the commemorative events surrounding the centenary of Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, so the theatre’s technical crew knew what to expect and had everything ready for us. This team will also be on the road with us for the tour, liaising with Anneke and Florent, so it’s great to know we’re highly prepared on the production management front. After just one afternoon of rehearsal we revived the piece to a warm reception. It’s been three and a half months since we were last together, so it was a relief that we managed to slip back into the swing of things without issue. The final projected image of the Sarajevo Red Line still carries a huge power, particularly in this city. I always watch this from the wings and can feel the strength of the emotions in the air.
After the show we managed to catch another MESS performance: an outrageously fun performance by Needcompany (from Belgium) that they devised in just seven days as a closing piece for the festival. The Bolero company has subsequently adopted a line from it as our tour catchphrase: anything and everything “IS GOOOOOOD”. (Yeah, you probably had to be there.)
The next day, election day, we had no performance – but we began by exchanging diplomatic pleasantries at the residence of the British Ambassador to BiH. He didn’t see the performance himself – he was at a ballot count until 5.30am – but his wife was there and was incredibly positive with her feedback. We spoke in depth about connecting creatively with artists and audiences from other cultures, and discussed the election and what that might mean for Bosnia. Later on, Benjamin spent over an hour explaining the complicated BiH governmental system to me. I still don’t fully understand its complexities, but perhaps most importantly there are three people for every single position (including the President), which politically balances the relationship between Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, as written into the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in November 1995. As news of today’s election results floated in, Benjamin said the three winning parties appear to be the same three as were in power back then.
After a day of politics it seemed appropriate to visit Sarajevo’s recently rebuilt City Hall: this was the building in which Franz and Sophie attended a civic reception, just minutes before they were shot in 1914. The original building was bombed during the ’90s conflict and it was in its ruins that Zubin Mehta conducted Mozart’s Requiem whilst the war raged outside. When we were in Sarajevo back in June it was not yet open to the public, but today it was both powerful and surreal to be inside this reconstructed building. The sun shone through the colourful stained glass ceiling like something from an Argento movie. It is quiet, though no longer a library. The detailing of the patterns on ceilings and walls is astonishingly intricate. It feels regal and neat, a historically vital building for so many reasons.
Tomorrow we take Bolero to Zenica, 70 kilometres outside Sarajevo. I wonder how a different city will relate to our stories.