You will marry me/ Petar Miloshevski/UK
This 12-minute long solo video performance is a full author’s project of British-Macedonian actor, performer, and theatre-maker Petar Miloshevski. It was developed as an artistic response to 2020 Coronavirus pandemics lockdown and serves as yet another proof of human creativity even with, or despite limited equipment and means – the entire video was filmed using only a mobile phone. The video performance was based on narrated excerpts Miloshevski had at his disposal at home and includes authors such as Viriginia Woolf, Jacques Prevert, and a couple of anonymous sources. The context, Milosevshki’s home, was determined by the external circumstances but served well for the portrayal of the fragments of characters Miloshevski embodies. Most of the video was shot in black-and-white, which fits the initial pale melancholic mood and subtle themes of isolation and loneliness that, by the end, blossom into a passion and colorful balcony shots of the outside world. The bipolarity of the black- and-white world is also present in Miloshevski’s exploration of gender; he embodies both a man and a woman, and dwells on the peculiarities of each gender – how does it feel to dress like a woman? Each scene is a glimpse into Miloshevski’s psychological, emotional or physical world, and a narrational whole in itself, dealing with topics such as gender identity, body, old age, hopes, and fears. My bones are fragile as glass, (..) the cracks of thousands of wrinkles have appeared on my skin advancing by little bounce all over the body, anxiously murmurs Miloshevski. The title is taken from one of the poetic monologue excerpts and refers to being married to life in all its fullness, to its joys but also sorrows (and can be linked to Sturm und Drang and its insistence on emotional expression) – The knife marries the wound, the rainbow marries the rain, the smiles marries the tears. Some unexpected special effects were used for the video, such as an echo, or laugh tracks during more serious scenes, which brought complexity to material and an auto-ironic feel, as if the author added little auditive triggers to maintain self-awareness and remind himself this Covid-19 isolation too, shall pass (and it has!). You will marry me is a short but substantive performance video dealing with the effects of the lockdown but also serving as the spiritual remedy, both for the author and the audience.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
The Pear/Academy of performing arts Bratislava
18th-century German literature movement, Sturm und Drang, was known to have only male representatives (Klinger, Goethe, Schiller, Lenz, etc.), a fact which makes Slovakia’s student performance The Pear particularly interesting in this year’s Festival program. The title itself might be wordplay with Shakespeare’s name, as the performance was loosely based on female characters from Shakespeare’s plays (Othello, Romeo and Juliette, Macbeth, Hamlet ,and Taming of the shrew). William Shakespeare’s innovative plays with multiple sub-plots and rejection of established dramatic structure were an inspiration for young Sturm und Drang writers. A decision to use a woman’s point of view and move the spotlight to Shakespeare’s over-looked (and often tragic) heroines is a strong feminist statement by the author and director Peter Palik. The shape of a pear could also be linked to a symbolic representation of femininity (resembling the statue of Venus of Willendorf). The performance begins and ends with a harmonious mini-orchestra of 5 performers facing each other in a closed circle and playing instruments such as violin, cello, oboe, etc. Each scene is a non-verbal portrait of Juliette, Desdemone, Catherine, Mrs. Macbeth, and Ophelia, and there is a metal frame used as an element of scenography, that visually emphasizes this concept of staged character study. It would be wrong to say this is a performance solely about women, as there are frequent references of a male-dominated patriarchal world shown through oversized male coats or wigs humoristically worn as beards. The original male lover of each of the heroines (e.g. Othello, or Macbeth) never appears on the stage. Instead, mannequins are used to create the dynamics within the scene, as all the actresses are graduate students of the puppetry department. The mannequin is, however, deconstructed and each character in the performance is given only one piece of it (legs, or a hand, or head). Only by looking at the whole is it possible to recreate the image of this fragmented male figure with no identity. The scenes have diverse genres; Desdemone’s part has intimate erotic undertones, Julietta’s is tragic and we see her mourning her lover, and the third, central one among these 5 poetic images, has elements of comedy and farce. Catherine was depicted as a physically strong woman (with transparent plastic balloons serving as muscles) fighting her lover for domination. The role of the ill-tempered Catherine was perhaps the most physically demanding one and the actress/performer Mariana Bodyová fully delivered it as we watched her externalize her anger on the stage. Her scene was also a needed antipode in deepening the exploration of femininity; not all female characters in this performance are fragile or sensual. Desdemona’s scene, performed by Veronika Trungelová, relied on the technically skilled and precise use of belly muscles while interacting with the puppet, and Lady Macbeth physically merged with living performers to add to her giant bodily stature and reach for the stars (ie. lights in the ceiling). The costumes, done by Viktória Csányiová, are creatively aligned with the temperament or destinies of the characters through colors and materials. Julietta’s costume is dominated by gentle pastel colors, Catherine wears red stockings above her head, made to look like horns, and Ophelia is hidden under a long wavy veil, reminiscent of both a wedding and a river in which she drowned in the original play. The Pear is a fresh and modern take on the various aspects of femininity, drawing inspiration from the Shakesperian world.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
Odilo. Obscuration. Oratorio, Mladinsko Theater, Slovenia
Nazi war criminal born in Slovenia, Odilo Globočnik, is the central figure of the Slovenian political theatre performance Odilo. Obscuratio. Oratorio directed by Dragan Zivadinov, the co-founder of the Neue Slovenische Kunst Movement. It is a ritual dedicated to, as the performance states, killing Odilo’s name, as he was in the highest ranks of the German Nazi system, invented extermination concentration camps, and was responsible for the deaths of thousands. Odilo, fear for your good name! proclaims the text, We will only bring you to life to annihilate your name. He represents the shadow side and the myth of each society and nation, in this case, Slovenian, that must be identified and dealt with to prevent the rise of nationalism, fascism, and racism in the future. The text is written by Peter Mlakar in collaboration with Dragan Zivadinov and consists of song lines and a couple of playing scenes with dialogues. The performance is a stylized reconstruction of Nazist political rallies, it opens with military drums and reveals a grandiose sight – an ensemble of 30 uniformed members, a sign of a big co-production by Mladinsko Theatre and Kino Siska. At the beginning of a theatre, there was only choir: A choir marches in on the stage and positions itself in rows with strict precision, drawing inspiration from ancient Greek tragedies, their steps, movement, and breaths are unified, and so are their voices, they act and speak as a “we”, not as individuals, while breaking the fourth wall. They are not actors, but an impersonal state apparatus. The use of the choir is a part of a skillful director’s concept, and its main purpose is to gain an ironical distance from Odilo and to avoid the unintentional glorification of his crimes by clearly stating the author’s attitude. A question does arise whether this attitude should have been shown rather than spoken at the audience, but it is effective and serves the purpose nonetheless. The tone of voice in the choir stays neutral but creates flow dynamics by switching between a whisper and loud declarations. Both male and female actors are wearing full German war uniforms, varying in degree depending on their ranks, all with red stripes around their left arm. One of the peculiarities is the stage itself, it has a symbolic shape and resembles a bowling alley. The actors play with black and red balls throughout the performance. Were the casualties of World War II just bowling pins in the eyes of the Nazi regime? The special effects are used on the stage, it is mobile, it rotates, and has holes for actors to enter, as if in a military trench. Colors are important and give context to the narrative, in props, scenography, stage lights, and costumes, and the red is, expectedly, the domineering color, along with black, reflecting the Nazi Germany flag. The built reality of the performance relies on massiveness, numbers, and corporeality, and not so much on the individual actor’s facial expressions or any details. The hierarchy of military ranks is marked by the arrangement of the actors on stage. Elements of documentary theatre are used as well, and historical photographs of e.g. Nuernberg are being displayed in the background video screen, along with the large Nazi Eagle, a symbol developed by the Nazi Party in the 1920s. The performance is rich with iconography, digital constructions of symbols, and Nazi associations. The playing illusionistic scenes with a dialogue portray a leading member of the Nazi party, Heinrich Himmler, and Odilo discussing war plans. An auditive leitmotif of dialing a phone number (sound design is signed by Jure Vlahovič) appears multiple times, enhancing the atmosphere of uncertainty, danger, and secrecy, and the impressive lighting design by David Cvelbar adds to it as well. Odilo. Obscuration. Observatorio. is a relevant and brave theatre performance warning of urgent and ever-present issues of right-wing populism and xenophobia.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
Other side of the wind, Faculty of Dramatic Arts Cetinje,
Other side of the wind is a poetic performance of freshly graduated students from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Cetinje. It is loosely based on the poems of Serbian writer Miroslav Antic, such as An incredibly marine song and Other side of the wind, and dramatized and directed by Branko Ilic. It is a staged fairytale suitable for all generations, exploring the topics of adventure, first love, rivalry, parenthood, community, and life at sea. The performance opens with an intimate atmosphere, dimmed stage lights, and the gentle sounds of acoustic guitar played by the character of Captain’s daughter, Lara Dragovic, and The dangerous one, Pavle Bogojevic. The rest of the cast is singing along the rhymes of Mika Antic (loosely translated) – He who has not sailed, He who has hidden from the hurricane waves, As if he has been born only in half, and has lived half a life. Dragovic and Bogojevic are leaning against a wooden chest, and behind them is a couple of meters high white cloth sail that will be multiple times used throughout the performance, sometimes for painting the context and emphasizing the hierarchy at the ship, and other times in more intimate scenes, such as the no-boys-allowed-scene with Captain’s daughter and her best friend (Danica Rajkovic) discussing first love – With first love, comes first wrinkle, softly warns Rajkovic. The narrative revolves around a young pirate crew of 6 members led by a Captain played by Stefan Vukovic. The captain wears a mustache, there is a parrot on the ship, Deck boy (Mirjana Spaic) has a pirate eye patch, ship songs are sung and swords are drawn – there are a lot of common pirate motifs and tropes used, and the director Ilic’s vision does not diverge much from the stereotypical portrayal of life at the sea. We are acquainted with the micro-universe of this ship and its inhabitants through the eyes of the protagonist Kid, played by Marko Rajkovic, who is discovering what it means to be a sailor for the first time. The plot is relatively simple, it consists of several storylines, among them – a love story between the Captain’s daughter and Kid, the rivalry between Kid and The dangerous one, the friendship evolving into a love story between Drunkard and Deck boy; all the storylines are intertwined and happily resolved by the end. Live music, songs, and dance are frequently used, not just as a narrational tool moving the plot forward, but also as means of character building and development of relations between the characters. The characters played by the ensemble resemble a Commedia dell’Arte troupe of fixed stock characters, and some of the humorous scenes might have stemmed from improvisation. The acting style of every actor and actress is tuned into the rhythm of the group, but when it comes to individual performance, Stefan Vukovic, in the role of the Captain, left the strongest stage impression and built into his character corporeal quirks that gave his personality a unique expression. The performance is mostly comic, with some elements of tragedy, such as the death of Captain, but even that is tempered by a hopeful epilogue in which we see his smiling face on a video screen. The storyline of Deck boy hiding his/her identity through mask and costumes has elements of intrigue, as well as puppetry (the parrot) and shadow puppetry, and was, technically the most diverse. Ilic, along with the poetry of Miroslav Antic and the rest of the team, creates a world in which there is no place for sorrow, a world that insists on singing, celebrating life, and keeping a Peter-Panish childlike wonder, even at adult age.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
Smashed to pieces/ La Belle Meunière / La Poétique des signes
The plot of the French performance Smashed to pieces can be summed up into a single action and a shared motivation of two burlesque performers, Raphael Cottin and Pierre Meunier – to mercilessly destroy a cupboard using physical strength. Yet from this simplicity, a micro-universe of subtle meaning is born. The performance begins with 2 men determinately setting the crime scene; Cottin and Meunier, both in formal clothing, wearing white collar shirts and red ties as if coming straight from work, are pushing a wrapped cupboard into a corner and placing rubber carpets all over the scene. Lowering each carpet turns into a ritual characterized by precision, patience, symmetry, and gymnastics. As the title suggests, the goal of this performance is to deconstruct a piece of old furniture and visually capture a process of intentional destruction, only to point the audience at the creation of something new from its pieces; as if saying – from each chaos order is born, or – nothing ever truly disappears, but only changes form. Going through this process was a cathartic experience, for Cottin and Meunier, but also for the audience that joined the scene in the second part of the performance. The theater company that produced the performance, La belle Meuniere, is famous for using an experimental process similar to a workshop to explore new theatre forms (and herein lies the first connection to Sturm und Drang), and that is what the interaction with the audience and collecting and rearranging broken pieces of wood looked like – like a creative workshop. Marguerite Bordat, one of the directors and authors of the performance (along with Meunier and Cottin), joined as well on the stage, just in time to speed up the process of rebuilding. All the performers needed to be in excellent physical condition for this show, as it involved using tools such as an ax or a heavy metal ball, jumping, ballet moves, standing on top of the unstable cupboard, and various gymnastics/circus acts such as flips or piggyback. We don’t know much about the performers’ identity, other than their work uniform, and the same is true for the context, the only available information is the local French radio switching between various musical genres and interview excerpts in the background (the second, post-destruction phase is characterized by silence); the central object of the performance, the cupboard, is aesthetically unspecified but visibly belongs to the past. It is not necessary to fully define any of this information to be able to emotionally and cognitively participate in this theatrical experience, but unanswered questions do linger on even after the ending: Why an empty wooden cupboard and not some other piece of furniture? What does it represent to these people? There are no human antagonists here, only people with a common goal; a leitmotif of cooperation is present throughout the performance, first among Meunier and Cottin, and then among the newly formed community made of audience and performers. On a symbolic level, the cupboard could represent an old memory, idea, concept, or system these two men are trying to inspect and tear down so they could move on from it, or it can just be a suitable platform to externalize their frustration and repressed inner world (and this is the second connection to Sturm und Drang). The process we are witnessing on a stage gradually increases in energetic intensity and sets the rhythm of the whole. It is both disturbing and satisfying to watch, it relies on slapstick comedy, exaggeration, absurd and humorous situations (inside of the cupboard unexpectedly exploding, or carefully dusting the cupboard only to destroy it), and optical illusions playing with the perception of body size. In the minimalistic and raw setting of Smashed to pieces, a universe of 3 inhabitants and a single object is created to tell the absurdist cyclical story of creative and destructive impulses in human nature.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
Marriage play/Academy of arts, Serbia
It is no surprise Albee’s drama reaching back to his absurdist roots (ie. theatre of the absurd) found its way to this year’s festival as it resonates with the present reality on multiple levels. The play portrays dysfunctional marriage dynamics and was a student graduate project directed by graduates of the Academy of arts in Serbia (Andrijana Mecava and Tanasije Cakic, who are also the actors). What initially seemed like a simplistic chamber play with 2 actors discussing their marital problems, grew into a fastpaced intimate spectacle rich with relational and audio-visual twists. This quirky dynamism partially exists in Albee’s original play with its self-aware characters and sharp witty dialogues, but it was successfully brought out in the frontline and used to creatively experiment with the rhythm and the setting. The full concept of the show reveals itself in the closing scenes, as it becomes clear we are watching a fictional reality TV show predicting the outcomes of modern marriages. Our protagonists (dressed in white, as if newlyweds) leave the stage with a decent chance of success and a marriage therapy coupon. This relatively optimistic ending offering a solution works well for the concept (as well as for the festival theme), but it somewhat interferes with the determinants of a theatre of the absurd and the circular structure of its plays. The characters in the original play, Jack and Gillian, are in their 50s and their mutual 30-year-old past is gradually revealed throughout one long discussion within a single room. In Mecava’s and Cakic’s adaptation, the protagonists slide back and forth via the fragmented timeline of their marriage and space (jumping from the first date to pregnancy, intimate moments, 11th year of marriage, old age, etc). The stage chemistry between Mecava and Cakic was initially hard to recognize, but it naturally developed as the tension within the scenes grew. Just like in Albee’s famous play Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolfe, Marriage play is based on a role-play and psychological games between 2 unhappy lovers making it almost impossible to distinguish between the (stage) truth and the illusion. The set design was minimalistic but it was supported by playful indie sketches displayed on the wide background screen. The video screen was used to map the rooms within the house or to count the marital years. The costumes (Milos Janjic) added a lot to the story in terms of contextualization and charm. Jack and Gillian were changing their looks, style, and props along with the scenes; one minute they were breaking up under the umbrella on a rainy day, and the next they were dressing up for a fancy restaurant in Venice or arguing with their sleep masks on. The concept of a reality TV machine calculating love also reminds of the futuristic dystopian genre, and certain directorial tools used, such as remote ‘rewind’ button moving the narrative through the points in time, or the usage of verbal repetition and joint song recitation, mimic the robotic machinery or a glitch in the system. At the same time, it is a commentary on the validity of the entertainment industry media content we are being served. The high-intensity scenes between Jack and Gillian, in which they lose control and argue over infidelity, Jack’s animal instincts, or radical thoughts on monogamy, could be linked to Festival’s theme of Sturm und Drang, a literary movement that promoted unrestrained emotional expression and valued instinct over reason. The choice of this particular Albee’s text certainly came with challenges and restrictions, but two young actors’ mature approach to staging this play proved itself a successful endeavor.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
The end/ Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
A combination of theatre, live art and dance performance The end was the direct and heart-warming result of last year’s lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. The foundation it was built on was the question of (not Stanislavski’s) What if – what if we break up? What if the world ends in one hundred quintillion years? The performers’ duo, Bertrand Lesca, and Nasi Voutsas have been collaborating ever since the performance trilogy Palmyra, One, and Eurohouse that explored power dynamics within the political context. Lesca’s and Voutsas’ fictional or real roots (England, France, Greece) have been referenced multiple times throughout the narrative, sometimes satirically – Write to Tate. – You’re French. Write to Pompidou!; a documentary material has been used in the performance along with a fictional one, and the performance also touches on political and social issues, though more subtly than their previous work. There are two parallel storylines, one is personal, and dealing with Lesca’s and Voutsas’ intimate relationship, and the second one warns of global environmental issues and imagines the direction our planet is moving in millenniums to come. Connecting the micro-narrative to the wider picture, an individual destiny to a shared one, gives the performance a sense of metaphysical wholeness. The story of the Earth is told in form of an impersonal written presentation, silently displayed on the big screen. The relationship is portrayed by using the intimate language of touch (sometimes gentle, sometimes a kick), dance, step, walk and hop, stretch and balance. We are witnessing, as the title suggests, the decline of a relationship along with the threat of climate cataclysm lurking in the background. Does the idea of global catastrophe make the individual pain of breaking up a relationship more or less bearable? Does it bring people closer, and make us appreciate every moment spent together? What role do we play in creating the future? These are some of the questions the performance subtly poses through Lesca’s and Voutsas’ embodiment. Their dance is an emotional rollercoaster touching to watch, but this warmth stems not so much from the choreography as it does from the stage chemistry and connection between two long-time collaborators. Their sensory stage relationship evolves before our eyes, from a gentle touch to a hug and to an almost wrestling match. We are invited into their private little world with the gentle sound of acoustic guitar and the lyrics of Arthur Russell’s song – I close my eyes and listen, To hear the corn come out, Don’t you hear the stars they glisten, As we go in and out. Music is the mediator connecting all these narratives, and it was frequently used, from classical music to Philip Oakey’s and Giorgio Moroder Together in electric dreams, not just as a soundtrack for dance moves, but also to emphasize common themes and add to the atmosphere of melancholy and impending doom. The passing of time is measured through imagined events in Lesca’s and Voutsas’ future biographies, from marriage and divorce (to other people), the last time they see each other, health problems and cancer, concerts they go to, to the birth of their children and grandchildren, and so on. They keep realistic when it comes to prophesizing their fictional future, every achievement or spark of happiness is followed by a painful event or loss, just as life is often a mixture of both. A composition of text like this, with its highs and lows, and with Lesca and Voutsas hypnotically hopping in circles, creates the dynamics in what would otherwise be a list of dry facts shared on the screen. The combination of content and this peculiar, dynamic and often humorous style is what keeps us engaged and caring about their story even after the end of the performance. It is easy to relate to their destinies, and, as a side effect, it’s not at all easy to emotionally participate in the here-and-now of their reality, knowing, as the narrative on the screen suggests, they will eventually grow apart and lead separate lives. The dance is almost a tool used to lure us into a lovely illusion, while the background narrative on the screen defies this illusory reality with numbers, warnings, count-down, and pessimistic predictions. The realization that none of the predicted events have come to pass yet, and there is time still to positively affect our planet, our future, and our relationships comes as an optimistic relief. As the end of the presentation reminds us, But right now we are here.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
At least I need not kiss/ Academy of Theater, Radio, Film and Television, Slovenia
At least I need not kiss is a Slovenian student performance thematically bordering between life and death and attempting to unlock the eternal mystery of the afterlife. As the monologue in the third scene suggests by recounting small pleasures in life – The taste of…Mother’s milk/Mashed carrots/Apple sauce/Broccoli/Spinach and mashed potatoes, by exploring death, as a side effect this play also celebrates life. These topics deeply resonate with the bleak uncertainty of COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 reality, as well as with tragic motives in the German literary movement Sturm und Drang (that often explored the dark side of human nature and states such as revenge, death, suicide, castration, etc). The dramatic text was inspired by the plays of Romanian-French playwright Ionesco and loosely based on plays of British playwright Howard Barker (The love of a good man, The Europeans, Ursula, and The possibilities) and directed by Dorian Silec Petek. The storyline is fragmented, non-linear and consists of personal confessions, songs, monologues, and one dialogue, and a large part of the performance is built on non-verbal language, corporeality, and gesticulation. Elements of the absurd are reflected in the characters being stripped down to fragments of memories and emotion, or in the endless interchange of life and death. The peculiarity of this performance is obvious since its first scene – the ensemble of 8 young student actors is portraying a group of (mostly) elderly people in mourning. This contrasted setup of youth exploring old age, decay, and death gives the play unusual skewed point of view and visual and relational complexity. The introductory scene resembles still photography or a fresco with all the actors ‘frozen’ and painted into the set, waiting (for Godot?) around an empty chair belonging to the deceased. Special consideration throughout the play was given to the light design that played a significant role in emphasizing the theme of mortality and creating a ghastly and at times grotesque atmosphere. Grotesque exaggeration is most noticeable in acting/performing, in a funeral scene in which the family and friends of the deceased lose control of their emotional reactions, or in a haunting vision of hell in which the inhabitants are driven by their animalistic drives and desperate to grab the blinking light hanging from the ceiling. The body, repetitive ritualistic dance, and crooked deviant movements in this scene were used to express inner and outer turmoil, pain, and hopelessness. The costume designer Tina Bonca cleverly avoided the stereotypical black-and-white concept of hell by choosing golden coats (the color perhaps implying greed as one of the deadly sins), and the same can be said for the scene’s set design, in which the sliding walls are closing down on the tortured prisoners. The concept of the afterlife, even though it perhaps draws inspiration from medieval morality and miracle plays, does not stem from a traditional notion found in monotheistic religions, but from the authentic director’s and the Artistic collective’s vision. The final scene, the abstract conversation with the Death, and the chatty female protagonist horizontally laid down on the surgical table, is necessary for concluding the main point (and reminding us we humans know very little about death – How do you know you’re mortal? How do you know? You don’t), but also comes as a structural and compositional surprise as this is the only scene in the performance using traditional theatrical language – dialogue and dramatic situation with clear relation between 2 characters. The funeral scene, even though well executed and rich with touching, tragic and on occasions, comic situations, was disproportionately long compared to other scenes and had few situational repetitions not adding much to the performance as a whole. Nevertheless, At least I need not kiss is a successfully delivered ambitious performance; it doesn’t refrain from exploring the dark nightmarish corners of human experience, but it also, almost unintentionally, deals with life’s peaks – with love, memory, and finding a glimpse of humor even in death and loss.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
The Hamletmachine, Mozarteum University, Austria
The Hamletmachine is based on an exemplary post-dramatic theatrical text directed by Turkish director, actress, and translator of theatre plays Ebru Borchers, who finished her masters at Mozarteum University in Salzburg. Before this performance, Ebru directed Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Ulrich Hub’s Kangaroo like yourself. The cast, Laura Kuhr, Darios Vaysi, and Carolina Braun, are also master degree students from Mozarteum University. A 44-years-old post-modernist political, philosophical and commentary drama is written by acclaimed German playwright Heiner Mueller who loosely drew inspiration from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Playwrights of the 18th-century literary movement Sturm und Drang celebrated Shakespeare as well for his emotionally complex characters and renunciation of traditional dramatic unities of time, place, and action. The cyclical text of the performance does not have a conventional plot nor dialogue, the character attribution is vague and hardly defined; it is based on fragmented sequences of bilingual monologues separated in scenes and declaratiely spoken by three performers. It is rich with references to World War II, Communism, and has layered meaning, its interpretation is open and partially dependent on the audience. The common themes are hard to fully grasp, as there are so many – war, machinery, politics, ideologies, intellectuals, consumerism, reproduction, feminism, and toxic masculinity. Just like in her performance Kangaroo like yourself, Borchers is exploring gender identity and what it means to be a man or a woman in today’s world. The character of Ophelia, stating I tear the photographs of the men who I loved and who used me on the bed on the table on the chair on the floor, is played by a male actor, Vaysi, wearing a gray dress, and Hamlet, torn by inner conflict and declaring I want to be a woman, is interchangeably embodied by Kuhr and Braun. Verbal repetition of lines is frequently used in monologues to add to explosive emotional dynamics, in Borcher’s interpretation of Mueller’s characters, Hamlet and Ophelia are desperate, angry, and sorrowful prisoners of a collapsing, anarchic, and an almost dystopian world in which we have all turned into chimeras, theorized and manufactured hybrids of machines and organisms; in short, cyborgs. The washed-out scenographical elements consisting of metal reflectors strung around the stage and cart are minimalistic and, along with the pale uniformed costumes, support the author’s dark cynical vision. Chairs are used in several non-verbal scenes in which all 3 actors are geometrically situated across the stage and mechanically move their stiff bodies as a single organism, as well as ladders serving as the link between the two-stage floors. Borcher pays detailed attention to stage perspectives and relational positions of actors, and from it stems a commentary of social reality and its hierarchy. Scenes focusing on corporeality are intertwined with video-screen excerpts showing closeups of actors’ faces and reminding us of their humanity. Vaysi musically follows some of his most brutal lines with acoustic guitar and creates friction between the gentleness of the string and the meaning of the text. Industrial and electronic sounds are frequently heard, as well as haunting screams and auditive excerpts of the voice of Marx in various languages, and the actors unexpectedly release the built-up tension in a half- cathartic dance with the Turkish rock music video playing in the background (choreography is signed by Azahara Sanz & Mirjam Klebel). The Hamletmachine is a wild, fierce, and auto-ironical performance criticizing various post-modern concepts and European history.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic
The introductory scene of Bulgarian aesthetically appealing dance performance skillfully reveals a search for love and intimacy as one of its main themes: a young woman (Ivana Puncheva) and a young man (Martin Spasov) standing in intense proximity and physically and facially opposing each other on a stripped stage. The micro-scene ends with a silent face slap, the sound design (repetitive whispers and murmurs) suggests either psychological turmoil or some mystical presence, and it is clear to us this is a turbulent love story told via the language of corporeality and movement. The author’s and directorial vision belongs to Aleksandar Mandzhukov, who managed to weave the individual artistic threads of the spectacle into a whole. The rivalry between two brothers (Spasov and Georgiev), the mad passion, the unrequited love, and issues dealing with morality could thematically be linked to angry-young-men Sturm und Drang movement, and particularly to the last of its representatives, German playwright Schiller, and his play Robbers. The performers (5 of them in total) are students, ie. 4th-year graduates, in the specialty of Dance theater at NATFA but all seem professionally mature and well prepared. Music (Dobromir Kisyov) is stylistically diverse and plays one of the lead roles in setting the context and taking care of the overall rhythm. The sound of the church bells, the clock, and the gong are primarily used to announce new scenes but they also create a sense of urgency and the approaching of the unknown, which adds to the performance’s mystical undertones. Mandzhukov’s universe is not clearly defined, it is only partially immersed in realism and could be happening either in the past or in some post-apocalyptic future. The wooden dome is the central element of scenography (Kiril Naumov) and it seems to both literally and symbolically separate the brothers’ micro-cosmos from the outside forces; it is both a shelter and a cage. Inside the dome is a multi-functional metal piece resembling a seesaw and being a clever way of visually displaying relationship (im-)balance. Male jackets resembling frock coats (done by Kiril Naumov) in the second part of the performance hint at Victorian era, knighthood (but without armor!) or perhaps baroque, while the female costumes are mostly translucent, and share a fairy-like aesthetic (there are 3 female dancers, and fairies, just like the witches, often come in threes in fairytales and myths). There is a certain lightness of movement and touch in the dance of the female performers, which contrasts with the male one, which is domineering and emphasizes bodily stature and physical strength. Clothing materials were also used as a human leash, meant to portray unequal power relation, or to cover the female dancers’ faces that would, as the intimacy within the relationship progressed, be revealed. The performance seems to rely a lot on playing with the opposites, and the interchange of blue and red dome lights supports this concept: there is a contrast between the male and the female principle, between the principles the brothers embody, between the creative and destructive forces, and between the outside world and the one within the borders of the dome. Scenes of conflict are usually followed by slow-paced intimate ones, which works well for the dynamics and the dramaturgy of the whole. There are, however, over-used motifs failing to push the plot forward that somewhat disturb this flow. Pepelishte (which could be roughly translated as an Ashtray, or Ashes, perhaps referring to the mythological rebirth after a period of destruction or unhappiness, at least for one of the protagonists) is an intimate non-verbal portrayal of a man’s deepest need for connection. Some emotions can only be danced through.
AUTHOR: Ajla Medanhodzic