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Spotlight on Ljubljana: The Highlights of Ana Desetnica Street Theatre Festival

Posted on August 15th, by Peter Parkorr in Picture Perfect, Slovenia. 1 Comment

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.

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The nicest undertakers I ever met, from KDPM Street Theatre Company… the gent wired with dynamite is giving out ‘Free Hugs’

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.

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The ‘Heidi Blumenfeld’ show had distinct similarities to Sacha Baron-Cohen’s ‘Bruno’

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Some performers kept to street theatre tradition and asked for donations from the audience

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.

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Three intrepid voyagers enact a long and ridiculous journey, in Road to Tadam by ‘123!’

Organisers pick the performers months in advance, and they try to keep the talent local where possible – ideally from Slovenia and neighbouring countries.

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A couple of entertainers enjoy watching some of Teatr Miniatyur

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Magician Sam Sebastian has a volunteer wondering if she’ll ever see that €50 note again…

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. 

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Careful where you stand – lots of the shows like to drag people out of the crowd to lend a hand!

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Mute actors ‘Teatr Brova’ perform The Coloured Men (who I highly suspect were at least two-thirds women)

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.

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Dan Le Man made his ping-pong mouth-juggling act look like childs play, with another picture perfect backdrop

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Hilarious Italian act McFois put all his energy into asking everyone to ‘Ljubi Me!’ (Love Me!)

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.

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An interactive installation kept people amused in one of the central squares

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Many of the city’s bars, restaurants and cafes are along the part of the Ljubljanica river that runs through the centre

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.

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Juggler Vincent De Lavenere was part street performer, part crowd charmer

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The Coloured Men’s satire was based on EU regulations and international squabbling over crop subsidies

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.

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A coffee break with Frankie and Kate got a bit fancy with prosecco and gelato, without breaking the bank!

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. 

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Ljubljana’s cafe culture is infamous for good reason!

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A DJ along the riverside cafe ‘strip’ was getting people in the mood for proper partying

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!

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Professional firestarters, taking pride in their work

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Maniacal laughter and eerie music took the show to another level

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!

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Spotlight on surrealism in ‘Alice’

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And the costume award goes to – the ladies on 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.

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One festival at a time was not enough for Ljubljana, there were also jazz concerts and other music events going on around the city too

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There is an interesting ‘open library’ project in the city, where books, cushions and chairs appear in public spaces for anybody interested to relax and read.

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By night the same public spaces fill up quickly with people enjoying good weather, a few drinks and free music from the various festivals

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.  

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An appreciative crowd laps up the free street art

You can watch the official videos produced by Ana Desetnica in my post on 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!

Peter Parkorr

My visit to Ana Desetnica and Slovenia is part of the Must Love Festivals project, and was sponsored by the festival, Visit Ljubljana, and 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.