Blesok no. 33, July-August, 2003
Theatre Reviews

From the 38th Theatre Festival “Vojdan Černodrinski”
(Prilep, 13-20 June 2003)

Emilija Mataničkova

The Hero Runs the Final Round

On “Balkan Spy” by Dušan Kovačević, directed by Vladimir Taleski, played by the People’s Theatre of Kumanovo

    Why are the comedies of Kovačević equally liked both by the “accidental” audience and the one with intellectual demands? His comedies are a reflection of vitality, which comes from the animal side of our nature, but also with overall actions of his heroes. This vitality especially shines from the black humor, the forced smile, and the self-assertiveness trip. In this way Kovačević breaks the analogy of the identification with canonic comedies of Nušić where the latter insists on the troubles one gets into and the conformism as opposed to his authentic comic genre.
    Kovačević plays with the authenticity and probability of the situations that come from the ones preceding them. He also pays attention to the plot where he merges the seemingly minor threats, which touch upon themselves again. The puns and tone of speech as a whole are not only the means to induce laughter. The heroes with their actions give birth to the events.
    The plays of Kovačević are both a satire of our Balkan mentality and political comedies. Inside them reside maniacally possessed dark guys who are conditioned by their position in the society. The comic procedures develop in the drama, stage and theatrical aspects of Kovačević. He plays in the area: traditional and modern, individual and collective, ideological and moral.
    “Balkan Spy” is a superior analysis of the case Man, who becomes the victim of the pursuing delusion. Man who experiences the world as a conspiracy against him, against the ideals he stands for. In his mania he creases a small, but well organized totalitarian order around him. This bitter mockery in this play, and in the other ones created by Kovačević is much deeper and broader than the local frames.

“Balkan Spy” directed by Vladimir Taleski

    The sounds of the piano and violin brought sad, strong, yearning feelings. They took us away from the balcony, to an aerial perspective, carrying us to beautiful moments and preparing us at the same time for the world of the hero Ilija Čvorović. His world carries the basic nucleus of the play, which consists of his search/investigation for the “spy and his gang”, against squanderers, spineless men, against the traitors of the country. He follows his suspicious tenant, who presents himself as a tailor, a worker in France. This crazy obsessive fight also involves his wife and his brother. His wife Danica Čvorović is the pillar of patriarchy. By accepting the world of her husband she also appears comical. But, looking at her overall actions, that is, silent obedience of the orders of her husband, she inflicts more of a sad laughter. Opposite to her position, the two twin-brothers Ilija and Gjuro Čvorović are not much different than clowns. Their troubles, the situations they find themselves into, have more and more “adventures”. They are neither good nor bad, because they are originally immoral, because they are masked and led by gloomy thoughts. Thus, before sinking into the final madness, Ilija becomes aware at least for a moment of his reasons and motives that make him act in that way. In the name of the self-confirmation, in the name of the fact that he spent two years in prison to get some ideology, in the name of these, the spies who want to break his life resistance. The context of the main story also matches the world of the daughter, that is, the way she gets her job, her “forced” change in her actions, her flirting with the tenant. In the staging of Taleski this line cuts more into the reality, making the while situation really possible, that is, at moments we believe more in the realistic actions of the hero. This was obviously most persistently shown in the acting of Ilija (Goran). Consistently following the complete play technique of Kovačević, Taleski also inserts his own interventions, not denying anything of what is in the core of dramatics. The slides shown during the play, the private detective investigations of Ilija, are in the original text of Kovačević. But, the short punch-line sequences, for example, when Danica stands in front of the slide, and in the background there is a monastery (Matejče), when she is a ready target of her husband, that is, when he is always ready for not letting the enemy, these moments are our local color, the modern events, and movie-like types of sequences (like the ones of Milčo): close-up of our traditional, patriarchal, suffering, women being. Our everyday truth is put almost everywhere where there are toponims, dialect expressions that allude to the small man, his limitations, but giving closeness to the audience. In this way, there is a melodramatic de-patetisation of history, both the one that is very close, the one of yesterday. The appearance of the model was not very clear, a director’s intervention that maybe alluded to the trendy masked and impure forms or something like this: while the rest of the world is occupied and lives in a more sophisticated way, we, the Balkan people deal with illusions, futile and impure, conservative fix ideas. With the appearance of the model, the music is most stressed: typical music for the catwalk with small electronic vibrations. The stage set had the relation with our everyday crises, the traditional grandparents’ homes, and the esthetics of the after/war stage solutions, which enable the mobility of the play. The creativity of the costumes gave the correct answer, that is, a selected model for each actor. They communicated both with the director, stage and text. If the mother was dressed as our well-known folk mother, her daughter spotlessly follows the most recent fashion trend. The current mountain fashion of military-terrorist costumes was also present. The light, having the role of an announcer, always followed the tense, dramatic fore-moments, which always, as a rule with Kovačević induce laughter.

Non-Existence in the Existence

On Goran Stefanovski’s “Black Hole”; directed by Sašo Milenkovski

    Loss and paranoid behavior with two accidental one-night stand lovers. They speak of their unhappy circular life in small verbal pieces only. They can not find the right answers, and in the perverse sub-sexual situation, they don’t even need it. In the senselessness of the genital releif, their chat is unconnected, broken and unobliging. This is also in their background, in the remaining part of the several floor high stage, filled with static figures of people – all lost in their unfulfilled desires. The alienation is seen in their actions. Siljan (Senko Velinov) is almost all the time turned with his back when he speaks to the eighteen year old Svetle (Biljana Beličanec). Their sex is a virtual game – sex of bodies without touch, that is, senseless sex of two quite unfound people, and only the low instincts simulate parallel actions. The complete story is also put in a common inter-song: why should I love, why should I lose myself – the road to the black hole. The stage sets are a matching part of the complete story: at several levels, through several generations, of different stories, while the story is indeed only one. The opposite of what it is now, opposed to what it wants to be, and the desires are at times unknown. On the blue sheets one seeks for: divinity, purity, depth. Intimacy is lost, mostly in the unfound identity.
    Siljan with his other lover Sanja (Iskra Veterova) is in the stage part that is a luxuriously designed studio. A disoriented discussion on quasi-politics and quasi-art, banalities. This atmosphere is fully shown in the acting of Veterova: impudence in her movements and words, her body movements give birth to a spongy senses uneasiness.
    In the small apartment (centrally positioned stage part) Cveta (Petruševska Trenkovski) with the father (Pero Arsovski). Their conversation completely elaborates the reason and consequence of the paranoid, wandering life of her husband Siljan – sacked from his job. In the name of Cveta and in her quest for purity, we see traces of our historical, anthological Cveta from “Macedonian Bloody Wedding”. But, in order to be different and shown with cynicism, she is shed to pieces, so real in our everyday life: the lost Cveta, powerless and unprotected; the one who yearns for at least one night out with her husband, with kebabs and onion. Everybody talks about insignificant, petty moments, and they really show their source of loss in the labyrinth which (even today!) lasts. The father is a character – trace of historic events where he had lived all of his life, the ones that he yearns for and which had passed, His replica as a small detail reminds us of modern humanity, but it is also a small call for the needed catharsis: “you should donate blood… the body is purified. The poison come out of it”. His views and actions are melancholic and static. His present (actually with everybody) is in the past, with many small fireflies turned towards the future. The past is more present, it is already being forgotten, and the reality is therefore fragmented. In this paranoid no-way-out, to contribute to an even bigger absurd (which has been long accepted as normal with us) the reasons are in themselves, in their colleagues, in their neighbors, Ana and Pero. Ana (Danica Georgieva) the neighbor and lover of Siljan and Pero, “colleague” of Siljan who has no fault in Siljan being kicked out of work. At the moments that are the most painful, Siljan has Zuco’s replicas because of his absentmindedness and schizophrenia; and movements that simulate the beating of a lost heart, animal cries and calls.
    Siljan and Magda (Dzvezda Angelovska). This scene is a sublimate of yearning and memories. Magda has traces of Magda from “Branch in the Wind” of Cašule and “if her husband sees her, he will kill her”. But this is another Magda, different than the one when both of them were pure and romantically in love. Now they only want to remember it, but they are not able to do so. Only a tasteless rhetoric and wasted chat, to run somewhere, to get lost somewhere completely. Siljan says: “there I will be no more. No name, past, future. No tradition. No morality. I don’t owe anything to anyone. I don’t wait for anything. I simply am.” What cynicism coming from a man who is no longer a man; a man without identity.
    Siljan in a hotel room where his Mother (Meri Boškova) comes/appears. She comes from the subconscious paranoia of Siljan. He does not even know whether he looks for himself, and he is somewhere to Cepenkov’s story of Siljan (the one about Sive and Cule), which is intertextually present via the speech, a precise Cepenkov dialogue and via the movements that are traditional, static and motherly bitter. This displaced presence transpires again into Siljan’s drastic paranoia, until he is killed/lost, when it is not even in front of the dead bed of his wife, but in Sive’s story: somewhere far away, yearning for home, yearning for himself.
    This frame of more fragmented stories is made with additional disorientation and paranoia to show the saturation of the everyday burden – “Black Hole” of Milenkovski. The text is the same, and the acting continues the thematic scattering. A game of simulations, unmotivated, and deeply subconscious gestures and animal gags in the lost figure of man. Music is more obvious when it reaches out with the intention of the director, when the refrain of the song of all voices repeats: why should I love, why should I lose myself. Milenkovski’s “Black Hole” gave the answer to our status quo situation, in each segment that is treated in the post-modern dramaturgy of Goran Stefanovski interwoven with the current realistic existence.

Maggie the Cat, Between Foggy Victories and Feelings

Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on the Hot Tin Roof”; directed by Krasimir Spasov; costumes and stage by Marina Raičinova; choreography: Crenare Nevzati – Keri; music: Webster – saxophone; light – Kire Stavrevski; tone-master: Čedomir Mladenovski

    Modern American theatre via the line of Eugene O’Niell, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee has strengthened its realistic theatric principle, at the same time diverting from this poetics, each of these dramatists with their own playwright-technical creativity and obsessive thematic features. Tennessee Williams (with his plays: “Glass Menagerie”, “Streetcar Called Desire”, “Cat on the Hot Tin Roof”) brings new individuality and psychology, with a lyric color. What stresses Tennessee’s dramaturgy is the openness to homosexual world, incest drives and mad sexuality.
    What happens in the “Cat on Hot Tin Roof”? The worm of death has long been present in the gentlemanly family, which additionally completely opens the psychological turmoil of the characters, born from the existential frame of the suffering. The restless cramp of suspense, with some desperate and seeming hope, or the lack of answer to tomorrow’s and everyday troubles and their complete artificiality in the name of materiality – is the abyss above which the heroes of Tennessee hang. The cancer induced suffering of the father (Meto Jovanovski) is just an additional syndrome of the rule of death in the noble home. And maybe it is his illness that makes him even more sober in his drives, in his honesty, in his maniacal desires (for example, to fuck several young pussies). And around him there is the artificial “refined” respect and love of the megalomaniac wishes and low desires of his closets, starting from his son Gooper (Jovica Mihajlovski), May – his wife (Viktorija Angjuševa) and ending with the behavior of the servant (Gjorgji Todorovski) and the several signs of the stepson Tooker (Anastas Tanovski). The voice and especially the moments of contemplation of the father looked like the macho western types that show both cruel and comic dye, in combination with our Balkan profiled movies. His appearance put next to Meggie’s (Irena Ristik) world and the one of her husband Brick (Dragan Spasov) sheds light to his inclination to them: the alcoholic son and the attractive daughter-in-law who have no children, and to whom he wants to leave the estate. The other parallel world that cuts into these relations and wishes is the world of the other (unwanted) son and his hyper productive female. Their acting in this desperate labyrinth was cute, but still with a dose of a bit forced deceit, hypocrisy and over-playing. This over-acting also followed in the appearance of the servant, who was a leftover of the classical game and more the comedy del arte – intrigue inducing, even with an ironic twist, which depleted the seriousness of the images and appearances when he was on the stage. The behavior of Brick was rigid, his delirium tremens leaked with the aggression and funny howling at the Moon. This character of Maggie managed to bear the burden till the end. Maggie is a woman thirsty of love, Maggie is the aching point of the close, friendly world of Brick and his athlete colleague. She is a poor girl who came to the huge rich estate and she fights to gain, to gain the heritage with Brick, Maggie is the attempt and hope for restarting of life, house, Her already psychotic, lustful and barging desire for life, love, and existential security never ends. Showing the source of truth for all holes and truths in the society, the division is in the unclear homosexual-friendly love. The costumes (of Marina Raičinova) largely kept the allusion of time and characters, their status and age. The choreography (of Crenare Nevzati-Keri) was mostly seen in the dance movements and elements, in harmony with dialogue games. The light effect – announcing the following events and a punch-line as a support to the psychological stress with the characters. The music of the bands Chicago and Babester – the saxophone was a constant careless moment of the play, the psychological instability boiling at the home; the mutual link in the false celebrations in the hopeful attempts for a different life.

Cure for Painful Spots

Award for Best Artistic Achievement of a Play as a Whole at “Vojdan Černodrinski” – 2003, for the play “House at the Border” of Slavomir Mrožek, directed by Yudzel Erten, Turkish Theatre – Skopje

    The story “House at the Border” by Slavomir Mroźek is but a frame for the inspirational directing of Judzel Erten, which is woven from comic elements, Macedonian reality and an idea as a response to the issues treated in it. This “House at the Border”, seen from a spatial and temporal aspect, is owned by very few countries (a rare example is Cyprus). The version of Erten opens the issue of the multi-ethnic identities, Turkish, Macedonian, Albanian (even European, which has the role of a mediator). The complete play is seen from the tolerance angle, with irony and mockery of the low qualities, with respect to the differences and imminent solution, that will not result in big (neighborly) injuries. The current historical and political situation is put in the everyday theatre; the dramatic effect that is easier and (even!) most honest to be overcome by culture and art. The short plot of “House at the Border” seemingly tells a hyper-realistic, surrealistic situation when there is a border placed in the house itself, in the middle of the room. The situations that will happen in the border house are only an additional, absurd factuality. There were numerous directing situations and moments that actually gave birth to this play. For example, when the people should eat, and the bordre line is on the table itself, so you have to pay duty tax for the passing of the salt; or when you sleep in your home and some smuggler crosses the border in your bedroom; or when a child who eats is charged border crossing fee. An additional and permanent spice to this situation comes from the creative achievements of the actors, and these heroes won the awards of the “Vojdan Černodrinski” festival for their merits (this is Bedija Begovska as the mother-in-law, Atila Klinče as Man, and the award for the best young actor for Filiz Ahmet, for the role of the Girl). The completely well selected team by the director, his inventive, playful and precise solutions, with the full scale dedication shown by the team of actors won their deserved award. I would like in this context to which that you who read this could see this show without the tiresome procedures of crisis regions, visas, borders, etc.
    The identity problem starts with the arrival of three polite soldiers, who put the flag in a circular position so that it is easy to turn it and at it can show someone’s territory at each moment. Here one sees the current political and national moment that the director has used to detail for the completeness of his concept. Even a bit in Brecht’s style, “hitting” he reminds us of the final ironical and cynical situation of the existing tragic (ethnic) conflicts. Even our attempt to try and say something about the play from a purely artistic concept, we have the feeling that we are haunted by the issues targeted all the time, skillfully “planted” by the director.
    Bedija Begovska, in the role of the Mother-in-law has really shown the everyday irony, that always gave birth to unprecedented humor in order not to be painful. Her acting, especially her facial expressions, showed a character of a woman who is capable of finding her way, restless and always ready to handle any troubles, reacting at moments when it is necessary. In her character one can see that the veiled woman as well knows how to be tough, show resistance, prove that she can handle “male” situations, and even manage them. This was break of the ethic (Moslem) stereotypes, where the woman is always in the macho-patriarchal chains. On top of this, she showed that even a Mother-in-law knows how to be attractive, to play smart, and even be seductive. A woman who knows how to show her abilities, all the time, and especially when it is essential. Connecting to this, Atila Klinče confirmed the furiosity of the woman showing (again by breaking the stereotypes) that the smart one should listen, regardless of the gender, and in this case it is the skill of the Mother-in-law. On the other hand, he also acted the loss of the “border” man, who is insecure, first of all, in his own identity. He is unnamed, his name is Man, which is an initial label for an undefined identity. His movements: tense, confused, and inconsistent add up to the suddenness of place and space where he lives. Small and again temporary moments of sparkles of hope that this is where he is and that this is the place where he belongs get into a circular dimension again. Both characters can realistically show this absurdly realistic situation, together with the specific characteristics of their (ethnic) community, seen in a culturological way.
    Filiz Ahmet, with her acting of the child’s world, showed that it could always be unsoiled, playful, naïve, unpredictable, but true! These are the moments when the child asks questions (such as the ones of the “The Little Prince”) and when the surprised looks and skillful answers of the adults do not fulfill her child’s expectations with respect to this border situation.
    The complete play, seen in the content and how it was acted, bears the multi-dimensional concept, of start of differences, and then keeping them in the same whole. Therefore, the languages that were spoken in the play: Turkish, Macedonian, Albanian and English obviously carried the most precise idea of the political and ethnic equality, respect for the Other. That is why the play ended with a dance (=oro), which is the same for all neighboring nations. The so obvious idea for unavoidable tolerance, refusing any vandalistic planting (shelling) by the Other, and for caring that can only produce human virtue and greatness! I am thankful for this staging of “House at the Border”.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska

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