Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Dejan Dukovski’s Dramaturgy
Towards “The Powder Keg”, “W.T.F. started all this” and “The Balkan is not dead”
Dejan Dukovski is one of the leading figures in Macedonian contemporary, post-modern drama. Especially with his pieces: “The Balkan is not dead or the Edelweiss magic” (1992), “The Powder Keg” (1994) and “Who the f… started all this” (1996), Dukovski did not only gain the reputation of a virtuoso drama maestro in the Balkans, but more and more of his plays are also being displayed in many famous theatres worldwide. The technique and the elements he uses, the written directorial visualization, the frame of the post-modern fluidity… are becoming more of an obsession for the world cinematography as well. There are many ways for interpreting/understanding the stuff in his work. It’ll (also) take some time to decipher all the things existing there in theory, and that enterprise is exactly what’s ahead of us. This text is about one of the many opportunities, or efforts, to point out the possible aspects that cut out his drama writing.
When there are slapping faces, when darkness falls before your eyes, and everything goes to hell, so you rape, you kill, you become paranoid; when you seek love, when love is really necessary, you offer the rare flower edelweiss; when you entrust yourself because you’re love-sick, or, because you’ve changed your mind: loves without fulfilment, of loosers and of those on the margins, urban and fucked up, frustrated fellows; the Balkan and collective tragedies, absurdities; primates, machoists kind, homosexuals; arrogant fools,… – it cuts “more” ways.
“The Balkan is not dead”, is compiled through its opened demonstrative procedure of re-deconstruction and re-semantization of the historical issues in “Macedonian Bloody Wedding”, by Vojdan Černodrinski. This palimpsest, wrapped up with the edelweisse (the position of the beginning and the end), has been broadened up by Dukovski, regarding other sequences, other characters and different outcomes of the events; e.g there are Kemal Ataturk and Eleni Karinte; or Cveta’s multiple choice, concerning both Spase and Osman-beg, which initiates a humane outcome, a reconciliation, and above all, it points out the intercultural context and the characteristic redefinment of identity, and a certain break-up from traditional restraints. Such an event “is functioning alike crossover rituals” (Lichte), -here it stands in the wedding act between Cveta and Osman-beg, and implying to that, is her last line: ”I died, but…” without the stoical non-Turkization. This also counts for the Turkish words, the Wallach accent, and the French words. For the deconstruction upon the subject, Ivekovic is giving priority to its fragmentation, the subject is being crumbled, multiplied: Cveta-Spase’s loved one; Cveta-Antigona; Cveta-Flora, etc. Dukovski knows impeccably how to use commedia dell’ arte elements (the relationship between Rasim and Osman); elements from “The waiting for Godot” in Reason, “Who the f… started all this”; from “Hamlet” (The spirit of Spase in “The Balkan…”; in Faith and Faust – “Who the f…”); from Chekhov in Hope – “Who the f… ”– so he can accomplish the fictional relationship between historical/dramatical characters and situations. In the three plays by Dukovski, the plot’s being divided into episodes, loosely connected – which is nothing but mounting. Episodes are divided into fragments; fragments crumble into “interventions” (Vukcevic) that help the dividing of the situation, and as Selenic puts it, it adds up to the astonishment and makes it equally comprehensive. In his plays we find folklore re-actualisation, which reveals both irony and respect for it, and the functionality of the songs, proverbs, the straw Moon, reveal the irony towards the Shadow Theatre and the bit plays (plays with singin’ and shootin’), as is in “The Balkan is not dead”.
In the spiral within the plays, parallel threads of the plot unfold, very often there’s the rushed out text and replicas in a flash = fragmentary dramaturgy, which in many ways shows the union between theatre, film and drama in his work. There are fragments of sequences, images that show their intermedial connection. He broke up with the classical rule of the three unities (derived from Aristotle), bearing in mind that every (next) sequence needs/gives a new place for action (a field, a house, a ship, a train), post historical space; happening in another time, (the time in the prison cell opposite to the one in America in “ The Powder Keg”), a different way of acting. Actually, “the play text in the postmodernism, has got nothing to do with the classical Aristotelian, absolute, autotelical, coherent wholeness. The play text is no longer understood categorically as the ultimate “whole” and as “completed”, that is, reduced to its basic elements… without room for additional changes, replacements, interventions in the act of perception” (Kulavkova). Dukovski’s communication is especially oriented towards swear words as language phrases and idioms used on the street, including an original breed of urban and fictional reality. The poetisation, the lyricism, is above all, the style of Dukovski, and it is hung onto the divided motives, regardless of the quick, changeable directions in the images and sequences.
Dukovski’s idea is to show the Balkans through a metaphorical syntagm: a powder keg, and everybody wants to “hit the road”, and what happens there/after? Hence, the motivation of the characters begins, their deeds: murder, mutilation, infidelity, conspiracy – efforts that always fail. Those marginal people are unpredictable, driven by frustration and usually suicide is their final stop, or they go on into a dead end, resignated and tripping down the memory lane; guys who don’t have a clue how to get back again, led by some Balkan encrypted genetic recipe for life, so they actually get the hang of it all. Therefore, efforts, like turning around in circles do exist (that is to hit the road), or they get it all done with no time flat. This is how the question of identity between the individual and the collective arises. In this particular, collective, contemporary tragedy – the grotesque, or even better cinism is the main frame where social degradation has been shaped. To be more precise, the relativized cocktail is made through the process of carnivalisation of the inside condition and the entire dramaturgical technique. The condition undertakes all dramatical moments and conflict situations, which are many, powerful and short. His dramaturgy also contains carnival consciousness in the dialogue (an important, ethical, crucial moment of love, but the whole situation doesn’t seem concerned, for there’s only one short conversation after which immensely drastic opposite actions occur); in replicas (pretty often plaited bad language, that has a variety of meanings, but they’re always motivated and put in the situation in a certain context; little peoples sub-alter conversation, their dark humour); in the remarks (“America. A cheep hotel… Mane and Kiril are wearing colourful clothes and baseball hats turned backwards” – which gives us the image of a neighbourhood, Black people with pipes, on the margins; in character names Sveto, Angele, Simon, Ana… which are products from the tradition, secularity, religion, yet, they’re actually contradictions by their own dramaturgical existence; and with the only non-typical male given name-Gela, through his intentions and desires, is depicted in a metonymic fashion the homosexuality in the Balkan as well); the toposes (and their explanation, such as the Balkan is a powder keg, the butt of the world, and the jailhouse is the hemorrhoid on that butt.). Every scene in “The Powder Keg” is a scene of its own. Though always one of the characters from the previous scene re-appears in the next, it’s them squeezing characters that seem to build the virtual wholeness. That’s why the same names from the first scene, appear in the last one, but they differ within their space and time– a dream/a reality, their ambience and their actions.
“The Powder Keg” is a hyper-realistic allegory of balkanic social and cultural stereotypes, experienced by ourselves and observed and interpreted by others.
“The Powder Keg”– for all the unfulfilled love and hope; an effort for something different.
Translated by: Arna Šijak