Much-Loved Theatre’s Eviction Threat Echoes Crisis in Serbian Arts

Instead of staging a show, the staff of Bosko Buha Theatre staged a protest out of fear they would be evicted from the building the theatre had occupied for several decades.

The threat of eviction has since been suspended after a meeting with the Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic. Thus, the "scandal" ended, and the sphere of theatre and arts slowly drifted back to its usual place on the margins of public discourse and life.

However, what happened last week revealed the space which contemporary art occupies in Serbia today, the problems it faces, and possibilities for its better future.

Bosko Buha Children's Theatre with its seven-decade tradition is situated in the city centre on Republic Square, next to the National Museum and National Theatre. Its roots date back to the beginning of the 20th century, to Branislav Nusic, one of the most important comedic playwrights in the Serbian language.

Named after a teenage national hero who gave his life during the Second World War, Bosko Buha Theatre soon sealed its status as the most important children's theatre in the country. Among its many achievements, it even snatched some awards at the Venice Biennale festival. Nevertheless, its fate followed the fate of the country in which it was created.

During the 1990s, like many other cultural institutions, it struggled to survive, and at the end of the decade, just before Slobodan Milosevic's fall, a property dispute had begun. Last week it was found out that a part of the theatre building had been sold, initiating a chain reaction of property sales that turned this story into something more akin to business than arts.

Young Partisan soldier Bosko Buha (standing, left, second row) with his comrades in 1942. Photo: Wikipedia


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