Highlights of La Strada Graz, a street art and puppetry festival in Austria
La Strada, meaning ‘The Street’ in Italian, is an annual festival of theatre, street performances and puppetry, that takes place for a week or more in Graz each summer.
It began in 1997 with Werner Schrempf, who still directs the festival today. Together with his assistant Noemie and teams of helpers, they paint the cool city of Graz with an exuberant streak of orange before filling it with talented acts.
There’s a good mixture of ticketed and free shows, so that anyone in the city while La Strada Graz is on can join in the spirit of things.
These are my personal highlights from 4 days at La Strada this year.
Klaxon by Compagnie Akoreacro
This group of (mostly) french performers have created their own company, and put together an awe-inspiring show full of acrobatics, laughs and the most energetic musical accompaniment you’ve ever seen. It was incredibly hard to tell the musicians and acrobats apart, thanks to in-house skill-sharing over the few years they have been together (I learned at the bar with them afterwards). And even though the venue was not the biggest, their uber-talented and hilarious act gave rise to the most emphatic applause I’ve ever heard. An absolutely stunning show! I bought the T-shirt, but where can I buy the DVD please? More from these guys later.
Ticket prices varied from €23 to €36.
La Verità by Compagnia Finzi Pasca
Presented at the Graz Opera House, this stage show, the main feature of La Strada this year, is another comedy of errors with acrobatics and slapstick humour. This one however was inspired by a long-lost Salvador Dali artwork that was rediscovered in a small theatre several years ago. The surreal ‘scrim’, a huge painting on cloth designed to be backdrop to the stage, is just incredible to stare at, and the equally bizarre storyline is dotted with impressive solo and group acts. Feats of strength, feats of co-ordination, and several feats of madness kept the full-house well entertained.
Ticket prices varied from €31 to €48.
The Speakers by Thor McIntyre-Burnie
The Speakers is an interactive installation by British artist Thor. Made from audio speakers hanging loosely within a circle of trees in a park, the idea is to relax and reflect on what you are listening to. Taking sentiments from various people around the globe, and asking others to read them out loud, Thor has collected comments from places like Sri Lanka, Egypt and Austria, and recorded people from Scotland, Hungary, and Holland among others, reading them aloud in several languages. Many (not all) of the words are about wars or social struggles, and the installation was expanded in Graz with recordings of local sentiment found in archives from the First World War. The thoughtful nature of The Speakers was complimented by Thor and his helpers offering a very symbolic traditional mint tea to those who came along.
Free, two 3-hour slots per day with people free to come and go anytime. Audio looped on each speaker with times varying from 30 to 60 minutes.
Open Dance with live bands
Now this is what I’d call a street party. A big old knees-up, with music and dancing, in the street. Open Dance took over one end of Kaiserfeldgasse for over a week, with several different bands and artists taking turns to get everyone moving and shaking. People crowded around under big trees and watched as the bravest souls took to the dance floor. I went along twice, after watching Klaxon and La Verita, to see the Zygos brass band getting the crowd all hot under the collar. Businesses in the street were serving cheap drinks and snacks to give this a real music festival feel, without any entrance fee.
Free, evenings from 7pm onwards. Some tables were available but the crowd on their feet had the most fun.
Cardboard Construction by Oliviere Grossetete
Oliviere is a French artist who has made a name for himself in the last few years. He is known for constructing life-size buildings out of cardboard boxes, using his simple designs and a new volunteer workforce each time. This is a really fun idea, with several days of workshops that anyone can get involved in, and two final sessions; one to assemble and sellotape the building together, and a second one to tear it all down! People from all generations loved getting involved with this project and it created a great buzz in the area.
Free. Workshops could be joined by arrangement. For helping with the construction and destruction – just turn up!
These are my highlights from La Strada 2014, but there were other great shows I saw and took part in, so stay tuned! I’ll be publishing plenty more photos here on Travel Unmasked.
I visited the festival La Strada Graz as part of the MustLoveFestivals project, to uncover cool festivals and places that aren’t as well known. This trip was sponsored and made possible by VisitAustria and La Strada, as well as Expedia.co.uk. Sponsored doesn’t mean biased though! I always give an honest account and write what I want. Read more in my No Bias guarantee, and see my other MustLoveFestivals posts too.