Milo Rau cannot travel to Russia to receive the European Theatre Prize / Freedom for Kirill Serebrennikov: Statements by director Milo Rau and jury member Marina Davydova
Milo Rau had called last weekend for the creation of a “European Republic” in 150 European cities on the occasion of the reading of his manifesto written with Ulrike Guérot and Robert Menasse. Now the Swiss director has got himself in the way of national borders. Rau was to be awarded the “XV Europe Prize Theatrical Realities” by the EU Commission tomorrow Saturday in St. Petersburg, as the Swiss Depeschenagentur reported last September. As the newspaper “La Vanguardia” reported today, Rau will not be able to participate in the ceremony for the European Theatre Awards.
Since his project “The Moscow Trials” (2013/14), in which he critically examined artistic freedom in Russia, Milo Rau no longer had an entry permit for Russia. Invitations to the “Golden Mask Festival” and the “Manifesta” were unsuccessful due to visa problems. “I am not surprised that it has again proved too difficult to get a visa,” comments Milo Rau. After several efforts by the organizers and after Rau had to cancel his trip to Russia, a visa was suddenly offered this Friday afternoon at the Russian Embassy in Antwerp – “at a time when I wasn’t even in Belgium anymore and the screening of my film “The Congo Tribunal” had long since begun in St. Petersburg”, as Rau comments.
“I am sad that Milo Rau couldn’t come to St Petersburg,” comments Marina Davydova, member of the jury for the European Theatre Prize and director of the NET Festival and programme director of the Vienna Festival 2016. Davydova draws a parallel to last year’s winner Kirill Serebrennikov, who has been under house arrest in Moscow for over a year. “The situation is absurd: the European Theatre Prize is coming to Russia, and we don’t have a word to say about Kirill, who was unable to accept the prize last year like Milo now.”
“The fact that I can’t go to Russia is just a formality compared to the fact that Kirill Serebrennikov is currently under house arrest,” says Milo Rau. “How can we celebrate the “European Theatre Prize” in Russia without paying any tribute to the fact that in the same country one of last year’s prizewinners is being subjected to a show trial? It is time that we clearly express our support for Kirill Serebrennikov”.
The complete statement of the director you can find below.
Statement by Milo Rau on the occasion of the award ceremony of the European Theatre Prize
On November 17, 2018 in St. Petersburg
Dear colleagues, dear jury,
as you know, I can’t be in St. Petersburg tonight. I’m very sorry about that, because I’m extremely happy about the award, which is given to me and my team. However, I am not surprised that it has proved too difficult to obtain a visa for Russia.
Since our project “The Moscow Trials” five years ago, in which we critically examined artistic freedom in Russia, we have no longer been able to enter this country – be it for “Manifesta” or the “Golden Mask Festival” and other events. There were always problems; this time, for example, the letter of invitation was declared incorrect, then another embassy was responsible, and so on. Only yesterday, Friday, I suddenly received the surprising news that I could come to the Russian embassy in Antwerp in two hours, at a time when I wasn’t even in Belgium anymore – and the screening of my film “The Congo Tribunal” had long since begun in St. Petersburg.
But however absurd that may be, the fact that I am not with you today is completely irrelevant. It’s nothing more than a stupid formality. But these considerations are completely irrelevant in view of the fact that director Kirill Serebrennikov, who received the same prize a year ago, is currently on trial on grotesque charges. As you know, he was unable to accept the 2017 prize because he was already under house arrest. And there he is still, and who knows how much longer.
So now we are in the following situation: The European Theatre Prize is coming to Russia, and we don’t officially say a word about Kirill Serebrennikov, who is threatened with 10 years imprisonment in the same Russia. But how can we celebrate the power and freedom of theatre, how can we celebrate ourselves and European exchange, but at the same time remain silent about the fact that one of last year’s winners is at the mercy of a show trial? What does this mean for the European Theatre Prize and for us, the theatre-makers as a whole, if we are not even prepared to show this simplest form of solidarity?
The reason for awarding the prize to me and my colleagues was that we would be honoured for our “passionate interest in socio-political issues”. This is beautifully formulated, but in concrete terms it means: Serebrennikov’s case is also mine, is our case, as is the case of Pussy Riot or the exhibitions “Forbidden Art” and “Attention! Religion” in the Sakharov Center, which I made a theme of in the “Moscow Trials”. I very much regret that I cannot be with you at this moment. It seems wrong and insufficient to me to send a statement. But unfortunately there is no other possibility for me, and maybe this is only a part of this whole absurd situation: that even protest is only possible by email.
It is time that we all express our support for Kirill Serebrennikov – in the name of this prize and the theatre! I hope that this stupid trial to which Kirill is exposed will soon be over and he will be free again! And of course I hope that we can all meet in person soon!
Thany you very much!
Milo Rau, Cologne, 17th November 2018