"Toys" in St. Petersburg

The world premiere of "Toys," the most important event of the NET Festival, part of the Theatre Olympics 2019 in Saint Petersburg, will take place on November 27. "Toys" is a site-specific project of the legendary SIGNA Theatre Company from Denmark, created specifically for NET and the Theatre Olympics. A remarkable team of immersive theatre actors has come to Russia for the first time, having "built" the stage in the Street Art Museum on the territory of the currently operational Plant of Laminated Plastics. "Toys" will be performed there until December 14. From the first performance to the very end of the project, the script will be changing and developing with new meanings, enriched by the performers' personal experience.

Each SIGNA project is unique. Its projects cannot go on tour because their performances are more like 3D parallel universies, which their spectators need time to adapt to, but which in the end are perceived by them to be nothing other than honest to God reality. 

The founders of the creative team Signa and Arthur Koestler say this about the idea behind the play "Toys":
"Shortly before her death, a wealthy socialite returns with her retinue to Saint Petersburg, the birthplace of her mother who had once emigrated from here. Disconcerted with how little she had time to feel and experience during her trouble-free life, before she dies she wishes to catch up on what she had missed by creating a whole kingdom around her deathbed on a long abandoned factory. The citizens of this sovereign state are poor young people who she recruited off the streets of the city. Day and night they must play "The End Game" to let their queen imagine all the things she did not get to experience. The reward is quite lavish: houses, diamonds, Ferraris... but the stakes are also much higher than what one could imagine. Mistakes are unforgiveable."

The performance of "Toys" has been created with the support of Statens Kunstfond (Danish Arts Foundation) and the Danish Institute of Culture.
Author: Arthur Koestler.

About SIGNA Theatre Company

SIGNA is a Danish theatre group, founded by Signa and Arthur Koestler, which has been developing since 2001, when the first performances of Signa Sorenson (now Koestler) took place. Their projects are best described as performance installations. Each of their works is site-specific, and is performed in non-traditional art spaces.
In cooperation with an international team of participants, founding members of SIGMA perform in conditions of full immersion. The installation is based on interaction of well-known archetypes, improvisations and thoroughly thought-through visual landscapes. SIGNA studies the models of power and notions of degradation, fate, identity and desire. The viewers are invited not only to study these installations but also interact with them, and, in some cases, change them.

There are several conceptual and structural qualities that join together all the works by SIGNA. These components can be seen in the earlier work of Signa Sorenson (now Koestler) in 2001–2004, which expanded and became determining factors in creative work and aesthetics of the SIGNA collective. SIGNA performances last between 6 and 250 hours without intermissions. This allows to develop complex, labyrinthal, and detailed stories, and also give viewers enough time to get used to, and immersed into, the system of the imaginary world. 

With rare exceptions, during SIGNA performances, there is no physical border between the performer and the audience. Spectators, who represent the ordinary daily life that absorbs all visual, audial and tactile signals in the environment, are invited to participate in the performance. The sensory design of each project has been thought through to the minutest detail in order to increase the level of involvement. For instance, guests often participate in the process of cooking and eating food, do household chores and participate in various hygienic procedures, participate in various rituals conceived and developed by performers.

The virtual aesthetics of SIGNA, although elusive in its chronology, is related to various places and historical periods. Some installations are reminiscent of post-Soviet institutional spaces, gypsy camps, controversial bureaucratic or scientific experiments. Many incorporate the consequences of mysterious and unknown worlds of external economic struggle, political unrest and violence by guerilla fighters. These topics, being developed in various works by SIGNA Company, as well as the use and reuse of similar articles, decor, clothes, and costumes, render multi-level influence on the visitors' memories. The audiences that have seen several performances by SIGNA, begin perceiving or experiencing the feeling of nostalgia in relation to the invented environment, with which they came into contact. These sensuous impressions turn into one common independent memory, which is subconsciously impressed upon us as SIGNA.