He who lends prizes wants to do good. That’s nice, but it doesn’t always work out. As many prizes as there are currently in the cultural sector alone cannot all be an expression of good humankind, otherwise the artists would have to live in seventh heaven. Every now and then the suspicion creeps in that the person or persons who offer a prize would like to shine even in the limelight. Occasionally, it is also those who provide the prize money. And sometimes they’re one and the same person.
In 1987, the European Commission had the idea of awarding a theatre prize. First prize winner was Ariane Mnouchkine and her Theatre de Soleil.
In 1990 a further prize was added with the bulky formulation: European Theatre Prize for New Realities, which today is usually only called the Innovation Prize.
In 2007 Robert Lepage and Peter Zadek were supposed to share the prize, whereupon Zadek stayed away from the award ceremony and the jury in turn revoked the prize.
Another special feature is that only the innovation prize is awarded by a jury. The actual winner of the main prize is determined by the person who pays the prize money. „Buy yourself an award winner,“ one could shout.
From 15 to 17 November 2018 the European Cultural Forum took place in St. Petersburg. Russian President Putin made a speech.
And the European Theatre Prize and the Innovation Prize were awarded.
The latter was awarded to Milo Rau (Theater Gent) and Jan Klata (Stary Teatr Krakow). Rau was not supposed to get a visa, as he had once joked with the government about the performance of the Moscow trials. And then he got it, but of course so late that the journey did not come about.
The presentation of the main prize, on the other hand, was without complications. He went to the long-time director of the St.Petersburg Aleksandrinskij Theatre Valery Fokin.
One of the most important Russian theatre critics, Marina Davidova, comments on this:
> There really is a great closeness of Fokin to the political elite, both here in St. Petersburg and to the Kremlin. And there is a proximity to Putin. For me, the awarding of the European Theatre Prize to him has nothing to do with his qualities as a director, but only with the fact that he is a big boss of a Russian theatre. Here in Russia it was not understood that he did not receive the prize from a jury, but from Russian officials. “
The prize money of € 15,000 was provided by the city of St. Petersburg.