Budapest’s Sziget Festival – What’s on Apart From Music?

  • 8 Aug 2023 3:57 PM
Budapest’s Sziget Festival – What’s on Apart From Music?
While the Main Stage and other music venues hog the spotlight at the Sziget Festival, which starts Thursday, 10 August, there’s so much more to see and do on Óbuda Island over the course of the week. Here’s our guide!

Cirque du Sziget

Popular Cirque du Sziget returns with ever more colourful offerings. From early afternoon until late at night, the 1,000-seater circus tent and the outdoor venues will stage a constant procession of exciting performances, including four companies each day indoors.

See here for further details.

Theatre & Dance Field

Revamped in 2022, the Theatre & Dance Field comprises two outdoor stages and other events in the theatre field for those interested in contemporary dance and theatre.

This involves performances from 12 different countries, including Cuba, Mozambique, Switzerland, France, Italy and Hungary, from noon until late into the evening every day.

Three performances showcase the breathtaking Into Thin Air, a fusion of contemporary dance and circus by Dutch company Panama Pictures, three acrobats who defy gravity.

Ten young dancers from the Basque company Hika Teatro combine local traditional movement language with hip hop, while the teenagers talk about their own problems with uninhibited, unabashed honesty.

Happy Hype, by the young Swiss company Collectif Ouinch Ouinch, has won over audiences at many theatres and festivals, and this summer they will present their crazy participatory show at Sziget.

Brutal, a co-production between Cuban Company Rosario Cárdenas and Momentos, is choreographed by Nelson Reguera, who Hungarian audiences might know from the Pál Frenák Company. In Last Space by the Frantics Dance Company from Berlin, the dancers give an insight into their own personal stories and into their subconscious through the language of breakdance and contemporary dance.

Otempodiz, a contemporary dance production by the Basque company Ertza, merges with two Mozambican dancers in different approaches to time through the language of movement.

The piece shows the collision and fusion of Western and African ways of thinking. The festival will also feature the Spanish duo Led Silhouette and Marcos Morau’s Los Perros, and two exciting choreographies by Italy’s Spellbound Contemporary Ballet.

French company Compagnie Dyptik are regular guests. For five afternoons, the dancers use a built metal structure as a stage, combining contemporary and hip-hop elements to perform astonishing feats. Their performance is based on a workshop held in a Palestinian refugee camp and draws on their experiences there.

Late evening all week, UK duo Requardt&Rosenberg perform Future Cargo in the theatre meadow, with music played through a headset, while the performers recreate a science fiction-like world on the platform of a huge truck, dance, sight and sound dazzling the audience.

Returning visitors, the Sleeping Beauty Project, open their sleep installation every afternoon for Sziget residents looking to relax. 

This year, two light installations by Portuguese artist Telmo Ribeiro’s Clouds in Garden uses lasers and smoke to create a mystical effect. Participants can shape the clouds with their movements, blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion.

Hungarian artist Bálint Gévai’s Glowing Leaves uses a special projection technique to guide visitors through constantly changing images in which the surrounding trees serve as canvases.

Wandering Fair

There are activities for all ages on Sziget. At the Wandering Fair or Vurstli, everyone from grandparents to very young children can expect interesting surprises.

The Karzat Theatre’s in-house amusement park involves Hungarian fairground tradition.

Guests include Argentina’s Eitis Magia, his one-man show and magic tricks, and Troula Street Theatre’s humorous Spanish dentist will roll around the Sziget in his old vehicle. The Gipsy Marionettist returns with his best-loved puppets, as do Catalan troupe Sienta la Cabeza, and their extravagant hairstyles.

Magicians, puppeteers, fortune-tellers, jugglers, artists and, to top it all off, Germany’s smallest Ferris wheel await regulars and newcomers, while in the evening, the Hungarian folk bands share the stage and the dance floor.

Walking street theatre

It’s no exaggeration to say that perhaps the biggest stage at Sziget is that of the walking street theatre, as their productions can be seen all over the festival. Seven fantastic performances place emphasis on spectacle and surprise, as well as shared experiences.

In Saurus by Holland’s Close-Act, five-metre-high dragon-like creatures come to life. Sagals d’Osona, a 90-strong team from Spain, will bring the fascinating Catalan folk tradition of the castellera to Sziget, building human towers in the most unexpected places.

The Belgian band Fanfakids is made up of children and teenagers with a unique blend of urban music from the mainly immigrant neighbourhood of Molenbeek in Brussels. Deabru Beltzak, a group of Basque percussionists, return with the Les Tambours de Feu, reminiscent of ancient pagan rituals.

France’s Mécanique Vivante arrive in two futuristic vehicles with a colourful Siren Orchestra, while the Paris Benares company will also return to Sziget, this time bringing a huge black horse with realistic looks and movements to transport the audience into a world of wonder.

Last but not least, Israel’s Asphalt Theatre brings a marching show from the imaginary Chorbastan, music combined with comedy and acrobatics. 

Living sculptures

For the fourth time, living sculptures will be presented at Sziget. Renowned representatives, the Dutch World Living Sculpture Championships and the Portuguese Staticman-Living Statues Masters agency will be delegating artists here to raise the standard.

A dozen performances will be presented on the first five days of the festival, from 4.30pm to 8pm, along the roadway between Cirque du Sziget and the Wandering Fair.

Special mention should be made of the interactive performance of two-time world champion JOHNman from Germany and Staticman from Portugal, who also holds the world record for motionlessness of more than 20 hours.

Think for Tomorrow

How can we overcome sometimes outdated habits and renew institutions? Are our societies working well? How long does individual responsibility last?

The Think for Tomorrow site explores pressing societal issues from the perspective of young people, and with their involvement.

Each day offers a different burning issue – climate change, what comes after capitalism, identity politics, mental health, the future of education, refugees – for discussion and creative reflection.

In Challenge the Speaker, Sziget visitors can ask questions of the speakers and visitors can take the lead in the discussion.

Secessional Detox with the Museum of Applied Arts

After a night of action, those looking to relax and recharge can visit Art Nouveau exhibitions at Budapest’s Ráth György Villa every afternoon. Fin-de-siècle Vienna, Paris, London and, of course, Budapest are brought to Sziget.

GameLandHub 

At Game Land Hub (GLH), everyone can find the right game from the six different spots in the tent.

Magic Mirror 

Magic Mirror has been celebrating love, joy and acceptance for over two decades. It’s a place where visitors can surrender to the moment, discover their inner selves and learn everything about the LGBTQ+ community they've never dared to ask before.

From immersive film screenings, panel discussions, workshops and English stand-up comedy to concerts, the programme has everything that makes the community truly diverse. And the now-legendary parties are the perfect opportunity to dance the night away, make new friends, fall in love and let go in an open and accepting environment.

Films includesthe lead actress in the Pakistani film Joyland, who boldly embraces her identity as a trans woman paving her artistic path. The Spanish singer LaSol presents her new danceable album but among the artists fighting for their own truth is Estonian Köster, unwilling to accept binary boundaries and calling for more individual freedom.

Catalan Lluís Garau’s performance Flesh presents a social critique, in which the dancer-choreographer connects to sex chat sites in real time and shows the everyday life of a part of the gay community. Another Catalan guest, Na Pai, offers two workshops to help navigate different ways of living and relating.

The performance Tryangle by young Hungarian choreographer Domokos Kovács, in which Sziget is a co-production partner, explores how traditional male-female roles influence the dynamics of couple relationships.

Partly addressing similar questions and a very different form of dance, When Love Walked In by Israeli duo Yossi Berg and Oded Graf explores the radical difference between the way Western culture teaches us about love and reality.

Savage Works’ Flip It, aerial acrobatics mixed with contemporary dance, explores the various possibilities of connection in a stunningly visual form.

The importance ­– and neglect – of gender is captured by Hungarian Amadea, who takes a refreshing approach to androgyny on the outdoor stage.

The Magic Mirror is also the home of Sziget Comedy, the long-running English-language stand-up programme.

It continues to be hosted by Dave Thompson, Tinky Winky from the Teletubbies, who hosts two or three guest comedians each night. This summer, acts come from nine countries, including Bangladesh, Japan, India, Hungary, Finland, New Zealand and Germany.

The outside stage will be mainly used for workshops, with Spanish vogueing by Raisha Cosima, now part of the Magic family. The Bence Balogh team give urban dance classes or you can try the hula hoop with Australian Chris Gogler.

The main show at 11pm is the most anticipated – this year, the British Queenz will have everyone dancing and singing their hearts out to the biggest gay hits of recent years.

The line-up includes Cakes Da Killa from the US, whose outspoken lyrics and R&B with house rhythms have propelled him to the forefront of the black gay community for years. DJs from Budapest’s ever-changing Alterego Club will be accompanied by Lady Dumper and her courtiers.

There will also be a touch of Berlin thanks to Katya Kóv and regular Berghain guests Snax and ND Baumecker’s Snecker, alongside Budapest’s Mirrorman. Malta-based Lollipop will be another party to remember, and their guests, the divas of Vienna’s Queens Brunch, will add to the glamour.

On Saturday and Sunday, divas will be turning the Magic Mirror tent into a heavenly brunch party. A special day will be dedicated to the hidden treasures of the Baltic States.

After the screening of the Lithuanian film Summer of Sangaile, a special Baltic drag ball will be held in the evening, with the participation of Lithuanian Miss Plastica and Latvian Metra Saberova, among others, before some of the best Baltic DJs, producers and performers play under the banner of Baltic Beats: Lithuanian Gemayel, Estonian Köster and Latvian Ksenia Kamikaza.

Equality for women has always been an important issue for Magic Mirror. This year, through the Femmes to the Front party, they’re showcasing some of the best female DJs on the Budapest scene: Kali, Vatsanah and Lau showcase house, techno and electronica. After Kalina, increasingly in demand in Brazil, the Garçons, unstoppable in Budapest for years, close the magic party.

ArtZone 

The ArtZone venue, organised by the Medence Csoport (‘Pool Group’), will again be one of the most popular venues at Sziget, where prominent representatives of different artistic disciplines will offer interactive activities from noon until 8pm.

One of ArtZone's key missions will be upcycling, a key driver and sources of inspiration for today’s visual and applied arts. 

Before I Die

Candy Chang is an internationally renowned American designer-artist. Her work seeks to transform individual ideas into a communal force. One of her best-known street-art projects is the Before I Die wall. This initiative has a key mission to increase community activism, and transcend the boundaries of individual isolation. Individuals can share their desires, hopes, fears and stories with each other. 

Ji Ching Labyrinth

After a brief hiatus, this year sees the return of the ever-popular octagonal labyrinth, created by the Élőkép Színház (‘Live Image Theatre’), which brings to life the messages of the ancient Chinese book of advice, the Ji Ching, the Book of Changes, in a participatory theatre performance of self-awareness. 

Sport Zone by Jana

The Sport Zone is open every day from 10am to 7pm, so you can drop in at any time during the day for a good workout.

Civic Sziget 

The Civic Sziget is one of the most colourful and interesting aspects of the festival, a meeting place where young people can get information, services, help and join the work of organisations working on environmental protection, human and minority rights, studying and working abroad, drug problems and healthy lifestyles.

XS Land

At Sziget’s interactive theme park, the organisers will present the challenges faced by people with disabilities in their everyday lives, with the help of games developed and operated by several disability advocacy organisations.

Through personal experiences in a playful and entertaining way, they aim to achieve a change in social attitudes towards people with disabilities. Easy XS Camping, located next to the theme park, will provide easy access to the festival with a range of camping and other services for visitors who need special assistance to relax.

Camping capacity is limited, so registration is required. The campsite also has accessible toilets and accessible bathing containers.

Ukrainian performers

As last year, the organisers will stand by the Ukrainian people and would like to assure them of their support and sympathy. As an expression of this, they will be the focus of a Love Revolution Special programme on the Main Stage, but visitors will also find Ukrainian performers on almost every stage throughout the festival.

At Cirque du Sziget, Prague’s Cirk La Putyka will perform Boom Vol 2, a showcase by young Czech and Ukrainian artists sharing their professional skills, and personal stories and experiences. Kommuna Lux will perform klezmer and gangster-folk songs, while Balaklava Blues will mix traditional and electronic genres on the Global Village stage.

Alyona Alyona and PVNCH represent hip-hop and rap styles on the dropYard stage. Cepasa will enchant the audience with his electronic music with instrumental and world music elements. The Music Box will feature Promsonya, while Ukrainian Pride founder and leader Sofiia Lapina will be one of the participants at this year’s Magic Mirror Talks.

More: 
Sziget Festival

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