Spotlight on Ljubljana: The Highlights of Ana Desetnica Street Theatre Festival
Last month I landed in Slovenia to check out a festival in the capital, before going on a mini road trip around other bits of the country. Here’s my first report from Ljubljana, 2014’s Ana Desetnica in photos.
Ana Desetnica is a yearly festival of international street theatre, where assorted performers slowly take over the pretty city of Ljubljana. There aren’t any tickets or seats to pay for, just turn up when a show is on and find a spot.
The shows start appearing midweek, and build up to crowds enjoying acts simultaneously throughout the weekend. This year some of the shows travelled to partnering towns in Slovenia, as the festival expands into new locations to entertain audiences further afield.
Organisers pick the performers months in advance, and they try to keep the talent local where possible – ideally from Slovenia and neighbouring countries.
The organisers of Ana Desetnica are Ana Munró Theatre – an independent theatre group, so it is fitting that lots of the shows are highly dramatic. Ana Munró also organise other festivals during the year, as well as carrying out street theatre teaching programmes and being involved in establishing some of the city’s theatre venues.
There are interesting rules for the shows that get picked. The same act can’t play again within a 3 year period for instance, to make sure visitors get to see something novel each summer. Performers have to come up with a new idea and routine if they want to return in consecutive years, with no guarantee that they’ll be picked again.
Despite being a petite city of only 300k people, Ljubljana is the capital of Slovenia. But it’s perfect for exploring on foot, with nothing much more than 10 minutes walk away.
Inevitably there are a lot of children at the shows, but the festival is really for grown-ups. Kids will enjoy the comedy, juggling, slapstick and mime as much as anyone, but the deeper political references are there to be understood too.
Many start-times were arranged to make seeing a few shows in a row easy. This year they trialled a colour coding system too, giving a suggested line-up for visitors to follow based on the style and location of shows. The great thing about wandering around Ljubljana for the festival is that there’s plenty of wiggle room for ice-cream and beer breaks – everything is nearby.
Ljubljana has no shortage of cool bars and cafes, all with very reasonable prices. For a city with this kind of energetic buzz about it, you might expect prices like those in Prague or Barcelona – but food and drink here is a lot cheaper.
The official opening performance was an impressive fire show by KDPM Street Theatre Company and Cupakabra, with leather clad menaces throwing flammable material about the place and opera singers in their midst. What’s not to like? And a big bottle (66cl) of local beer was only €2.10, so it kinda felt like a barbecue with extra panache!
Friday night’s finale was a dark take on Alice in Wonderland by AMANITAS, and had a huge host of characters, performances and props. The performers had at least one circus talent each which they mixed first with dramatics and then of course – more fire!
It was great to re-visit Ljubljana (after my first time in 2006!) when such a cool festival was happening. The different locations got me exploring the city on foot, the performers were talented and funny, and having great cafes and restaurants on hand was a massive bonus. Definitely a city I would come back to again for longer.
This is the kind of event that I’d love to see in more places, and it’s always the highlight of a trip when you accidentally travel to a city at the right time. Both Ana Desetnica and Ljubljana get a huge round of applause from me; for their sweat and tears… and my ice cream and beers.
You can watch the official videos produced by Ana Desetnica in my post on MustLoveFestivals.com. Ana Desetnica returns to Ljubljana (and other Slovenian towns) next July, with their sister festivals of Ana Plamenita and Ana Mraz held during the winter.
I will have more to report from the pretty capital and elsewhere in Slovenia for you soon!
My visit to Ana Desetnica and Slovenia is part of the Must Love Festivals project, and was sponsored by the festival, Visit Ljubljana, and Expedia.co.uk. But I only write exactly what I think and am committed to my No Bias guarantee. Thanks to our partners for working with us to helping us spread the travel gospel! Ana Desetnica in photos and all photos on Travel Unmasked are copyright © Peter Parkorr 2014 and should not be used without express permission.