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VOLTA International Festival: In Conversation With The Artistic Director
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VOLTA International Festival: In Conversation With The Artistic Director

Picture of Gina Chahal
Updated: 3 February 2017
This September, Hackney’s Arcola Theatre hosts the first VOLTA International Festival, which celebrates innovative writing and international talent. The VOLTA International Festival has selected four highly acclaimed writers from across the globe to present their new plays, directed by four award-winning, UK-based directors.

The festival features the work of American playwright Christopher Chen, Swedish playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri, German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig and Austrian playwright Ewald Palmetshofer. In addition to this, the programme also includes two staged readings by Chilean writer and director Guillermo Calderón and Swiss director and author Milo Rau.

With its award-winning playwrights and fresh talent, we had to speak to the person behind the exceptional lineup, the artistic director of VOLTA, Andrea Ferran.

What was the inspiration behind the series of plays?

VOLTA Festival provides a platform for ground-breaking new writing by award-winning international writers. When I started programming the Festival, I sought out plays that challenged what I thought an evening of theatre could be. Each of the plays are unique in the themes they explore and the forms in which they’re written, and I hope they allow audiences in London an opportunity to see something they haven’t seen before.

The plays feature themes of ‘persecution, power and abuse, guilt, memory and reconciliation.’ How do you think this translates to the current times?

The plays in the Festival explore social and cultural issues in an international context. They look at the possible responsibilities we have as international citizens, and our relationships with people living in other countries. I think we live in times where we have a private, personal identity, a national identity and an international identity. We are also in a political time where the UK is negotiating it’s relationship with the EU, and there is great debate around immigration. Our plays look at personal, family and work relationships as a means of exploring international issues.

How does the Volta International Festival differ from your past work at the Arcola Theatre?

I’ve always directed international projects at the Arcola, most recently UK premieres of new works by the composer Philip Glass. On this occasion, I’m co-producing four plays as well as directing one, and I’m working with a company of 14 actors playing 22 roles. This project is bigger in scale and bold in terms of the plays we’ve chosen to produce.

What are you most proud about this production?

When working on international plays, actors and directors have to learn how different cultures inform writers and affect performance traditions. I’m most proud of how our team has stepped into the unknown and worked in new and unique ways, taking risks and being brave, in order to stage these extraordinary plays.

The four plays include:

Hamlet is Dead. No Gravity

Something’s rotten in Mani and Dani’s childhood home. Bine and Oli got married, but did they make the right choice? Kurt has a secret, and his wife Caro knows it. Hannes is dead, but who pulled the trigger? With cruel comedy, past recriminations and sensational revelations, Ewald Palmetshofer presents a dark vision of a family in crisis.


Chinese artist Lin Bo’s harrowing story of imprisonment has the world standing to attention. His fame, however, is short-lived, as an American publisher begins to question the authenticity of his story. Is he telling the truth or has he been caught? Accusations fly as Christopher Chen’s inventive new play exposes the thin line between fact and fiction, where it is often difficult to tell the difference between the con artist and the conned.

I Call My Brothers

A car has exploded. A city has been crippled by fear. Amor wanders the city, doing his best to blend in. He must not attract any suspicious glances. But what is normal behaviour? And who is a potential perpetrator? Over 24 hours, Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s explosive play explores where the lines between criminal and victim, where fantasy and reality, blur.

Ant Street

A snowstorm in a heatwave. A mysterious package delivered 42 years late. A young man who speaks the poetry of the Gods. And a girl who can fly. Something strange is happening in Havana. Roland Schimmelpfennig’s Cuban fantasia imagines a family gripped by a miracle and a neighbourhood seduced by dreams of the past.

VOLTA International Festival will run until 19th September.

The plays are Tuesday to Saturday at 7pm, 7.30pm, 9pm, 9.30pm and Saturday matinees are 2.30pm and 4.30pm.

Tickets are £10-15 per play, or £20 for two, £27 for three, £35 for four (to qualify for discounts, tickets must be booked at once).

Staged readings are £6 and every Saturday 2pm and 4pm.

Arcola theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, London, UK, +44 20 7503 1646