Blesok no. 45, November-December, 2005
Distinctiveness of Theater Team Work
Awareness as Exceptional Difference
The directors Slobodan Unkovski, Aleksandar Popovski and Vladimir Milčin (according to the order of the premieres of the new plays) continued with their dedication to work with their teams in the latest theater pieces. Although these are plays created in different areas, the three directors realized them with creators with whom they function through the principle of team work. This is precisely the challenge of the realized work, because they prove what has already been proven in theater: each idea is implemented only via team work. Their new theater interest is in plays of authors coming from different backgrounds, both in space and time. And something more: these are three directors that put their unique stamp on the theater events, processes and projects that marked the Macedonian theater production in 2005.
Slobodan Unkovski staged Crnila 005 (Darkness 005), based on the play of Kole Čašule at the Macedonian National Theater (11 July, 2005). Unkovski returned to this ensemble after almost two decades: in 1986 he realized the play Nothing without Trifolio based on Rusomir Bogdanovski’s text. Now, working on a play based on the text Crnila (Darkness) by Čašule, Unkovski named the play Crnila 005¸which is one of the highlights where the idea and the implementation are in perfect harmony. He mainly has around him or with him on this project authors with whom he has implemented his ideas in a most comprehensive manner, proving that you don’t change a winning team, which is also visible by the numbers of the audience that has filled in MNT as it has not been the case for quite some time now.
Aleksandar Popovski staged Molière’s Don Juan at Dramski Theater (premiere on 18 July 2005 in Ohrid, and on 1 October 2005 on the stage of Dramski), believing in himself, the idea and team that worked on the implementation of the complex structure of the play. This Don Juan is now the most popular play in Dramski, inciting lot of curiosity on the side of the audience, although there are still memories of the previous two times when this text was staged: in 1980, directed by Ljubiša Georgievski, and in 1994, directed by Nenad Stojanovski.
Vladimir Milčin staged the play of Bernard-Marie Koltès Roberto Zucco, which is considered one of the beginnings of the new European drama and for a decade and a half has constantly been staged around the world, at the National Theater in Priština (opening nights on 8 November 2005). Milčin returned to this Theater two decades later: in 1985 he directed Mesa Selimović’s Dervish and Death at the District National Theater – Albanian Drama. In the current work and with new constellations, Milčin staged the play at the theater in Priština with a larger team with whom he also works in Macedonia. They practically carry on the play, and Milčin proves that team work, besides being the most important, can also be transferred from one environment to another.
From these common points of the authors, there is this interest in them as an occasion for joint assessment. The exceptional difference of each one of them separately is obvious, because all thee plays have their individuality and they have no common points, besides what was said – they have been implemented with teams that believe each other, and have more works like this behind them, the results of which are visible through the stressed team work. Therefore, what follows on each one of them separately is specific in itself and it is reviewed and assessed via this specifics.
Crnila 005 is a play of the director Slobodan Unkovski with the scene designer Meta Hočevar, the actors Jovica Mihajlovski, Toni Mihajlovski (Unkovski has been cooperating with Hočevar and J. Mihajlovski for a long time, and with T. Mihajlovski on his latest two plays), Nikolina Kujača, Emil Ruben, Jordan Simonov, Oliver Mitkovski and Daniela Stojkovska, the costume designer Jelena Proković; it is a production of Macedonian National Theater – Skopje.
The play is based on Crnila – one of the most staged plays of Kole Čašule: this is its 15th staging in Macedonia (and it has been staged in other countries as well), after its first staging (also on MNT stage, on 26 January 1961, directed by Ilija Milčin). In memory of the first staging, the play of Unkovski has the homage to two actors Petre Prličko and Ilija Džuvalekovski, who played Fezliev and Lukov there, which is a rare occasion of any honoring of persons from the past and Macedonian theater. Unkovski introduces them in the current play with an exceptionally attractive style: the characters of Fezliev and Lukov are from time to time named as Perica and Ilija by the actors on stage.
What is most important in Unkovski’s play is that he, together with the team with whom he creates it, makes a view on current Macedonian darkness. He makes Crnila 005 in which there is a system of de-reconstruction created: via situations and characters in which terrorism at the beginning of the third decade of 20th century happens. The problems of identity, ecstasy of national feelings, betrayals, powerlessness of any kind, are broken into pieces and re-connected in situations and characters of today, in which he seeks neither heroes nor traitors: only wonderers in their own and other’s darkness. This is a certain proof that Crnila of Čašule is a play that will continue to exist in the future times, in the centuries that come in the future. This is especially true because Kole Čašule is probably one of the few playwrights who could see the disintegration and connection of his work in a radical way in his own lifetime. The complete text is played as a de-reconstruction; it is broken to pieces and connected via the existing as a new whole with a view in which the characters and events are used as if they are from the present.
Crnila is also part of the trilogy of Čašule, where the plays that belong to according to the events (not the time of creation) are Sud (Trial, 1978), Zirolub (1977) and Crnila (1960). These are plays on the Macedonian darkness that he creates according to the principles of the modern art: the action and events overlap, characters are dependant on each other and open in the structure and character. The word is an expression of their twisted minds, their dependence on each other, but on the society as well. In the beginning, the middle of the end is the absurd. The young man in Crnila, upon the order of the Organization and with a motive to kill a dangerous opponent, kills his ideal, the only man that he trusts. In Crnila 005 it is not important any more if it is the revolutionary Gjorče Petrov, what is important is terrorism here and today. Unkovski knows exactly what he wants. He has a clear goal and idea how to lead the heroes through his text. It is a system of work that the director applies especially with the Macedonian actors – a search in oneself. In this process, the idea of absurd becomes tragicomic atmosphere with a cynical and even relaxed relation to politics, assassinations, violence. As a view and rebellion to terrorism and chaos that rule the Macedonian society, politics, cause, in 2005.
The desert that Čašule writes about at the beginning of the play, in Unkovski’s project is an introduction to each scene, just like the replica that is repeated in the conclusion that all darkness in this world has been created for the Macedonians. Although Čašule writes that the event took place in Sofia in 1921, the characters and events of the play are fictional and each similarity with the persons who lived then is accidental and unintentional, in Unkovski’s play the characters are sunk in the darkness of this century, today and here. They are recognized by the events, behavior, style, problems and dilemmas that have become a dark situation of the society with the longest period of transition that everybody is fed up with. Everything on the stage is a scream against the vice that imprisons man in these crazy times. The situation from the Desert in Čašule’s play and the Desert in Unkovski’s play is important. The symbol is in the FOUR WALLS that are determined in Čašule’s desert, in which Unkovski also frames his view on the Desert.
To build/create/play this with the precision with which it is played and to experience it on stage-auditorium relations, the characters of Unkovski depend on each other: everything that they say or do is a reflection of their twistedness, the way of thinking and life in the general image of Macedonian darkness today. The absurd and cynicism are brought to boiling. The main character – Macedonia is what they have in common.
In this particularly planned process, each why has its because. Everybody, literally, thinks. The team functions together. The idea is obsessive for all, and they give themselves up to the implementation. In black-white costumes made according to the latest fashion, the seven actors wage the battles of their personalities through their double games. Jovica Mihajlovski as Lukov, Toni Mihajlovski as Fezliev, Nikolina Kujača as Neda, Emil Ruben as Ivan, Daniela Stojanovska as the Young Man (gender doesn’t matter for an assassin), Jordan Simonov as Hristov, Oliver Mitkovski as Metodi, depend of each other in their interpretations, depend on someone, on something. Together they realize the world that surrounds us, the world that they fulfill with plans and marvelous sensitivity. They think, lie, drink, sniff drugs, fornicate, believe, love, shoot each other, end with their guns in their hands in the water that is made by the dripping of the faucet that is the background of the complete action. The result is a precisely developed and realized play that has its reflection in the individual dependence from the common things.
The essence of the greatness of Crnila 005 of Slobodan Unkovski and the team that implements the idea for its realization is in the joint result that is multiplied by the pleasure that the stage is turned in a space in which they think, and the imagination in it leads to new ideas. There is a strong concept built in it, a system that functions has been realized. Everybody believes and you believe the system according to which that have put together the tragicomic absurd jigsaw of the Macedonian darkness today.
The system of tragicomic absurd stage jigsaw, still has its leaders. The idea is led by the team that has co-operated for a long time: the director Slobodan Unkovski, scene designer Meta Hočevar (Slovenia), and actors Jovica Mihajlovski and Toni Mihajlovski. The others in this team also build in to what they create. Therefore, the result is as it is: precisely planned whole in which everybody is part of the creative team.
Molière’s Don Juan on the stage of Dramski Theater is a play of the director Aleksandar Popovski made according and with everything the actor Nikola Ristanovski can create on the stage. Popovski and Ristanovski have confirmed their ideas on the theater stage through several projects in which they regularly turn the space of the play event in their rink where the battle is won together. Sixteen more actors are with them in this Don Juan, all of them that used to work with Popovski before and they at equal basis build his view in defense of the topic, and among them there are also individual actors who only fill in the idea. Although the biggest burden is carried by Ristanovski, it is a fact that the team that is on the stage loves what they create, even if it is a single occurrence, one or several dialogues. By imposing his idea, Popovski imposes a tempo in which they thin together.
In the fulfilled idea, everything starts and ends with the concept of Popovski who breaks the text into pieces, as done by the dramaturge Despina Angelovska, and then a process of research is implemented where the stage is a space at which everything is possible. Through the director’s idea and acting performance of the costumes of Ivana Vasić, the choreography of Krenare Nevzati-Keri, as well as the applied video design and music, a play is created that through its concept has a clear view to what it says. It starts and ends as a theater within theater: Don Juan of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673, France), aka Molière, is played in the theater. Further on, through the open stage one can see the wordrobe of the actors, everything is game and fun on the topic of hypocrisy at a global level.
For Popovski and Ristanovski the fact that this is a dramatic story of a man without moral who does not have any scruples, a murderer, heretic, breaker of female hearts who would marry any woman, a dog or a cat, is not important… What is important is love and passion where an open process for proving that everything is possible on the topic of new democratic system that persists on two levels of destruction: hypocrisy and double morality.
The variations of destruction are brought to a boiling point by Popovski and Ristanovski. Popovski opens the space in which Ristanovski as Don Juan is provoked and satisfied. Together they research, look for, dig into the most hidden details of the most important thing that they set for themselves: why hypocrisy and double morality is accepted and why there is no battle against them. If there are answers sought at all, they are collected in one – spirituality. This relation is deeply in everything that is played on the stage. Nikola Ristanovski in his interpretation of Don Juan (to whom a monologue of Don Luis is added) researches within himself and through himself creates a character that builds the dark side of life on the unbearable weight of nonchalance.
The second relation that the play thinks of is the twisted classical relation of master vs. servant, embodies in the characters of Don Juan and Sganarelle for which Poposki sets/looks for a new relation. Sganarelle is seen as a female character, played by Irena Ristić. This idea is researching the completeness: the genders made of two halves – the female and the male – create a unity. Irena Ristić as Sganarelle (and also transformed in other characters) is only seemingly a companion. This character now via the power of the female imagination relaxes the relations, but also completes the idea that everything is possible. The third one is the level of joy and pleasure that are felt in the atmosphere that this Don Juan is created in, at the level of the whole in which characters complete the twisting of the glove of the action and it is in the function of the first two levels of the show. They practically close the circle in which love is the most important, and therefore (and further on) everything is possible. The detail and details are proven again through a process of thought in which the characters that via their openness fill in with the others are mixed, merged, matured. Neither Don Juan nor Zganarel are only themselves on the stage. The situation is the same with the other characters that the actors play via the need of the main idea to come to the global as a supplement for oneself. These are the characters of Charlotte of Snežana Stameska, Elvira divided between Dragana Kostadinovska and Milica Stojanova, Mathurine of Saška Dimitrovska, Peter of Dime Iliev, Francisco of Dimitar Zozi, Don Luis of Aco Jovanovski, Don Alonso of Kalina Naumovska, Gusman of Samoil Dukovski, Don Carlos of Gordana Endrovska, Mister Dimanche of Laze Manaskovski, the Priest of Gjorgji Todorovski, Violeta Sapovska, Viktorija Angjuševa and Dušica Stojanova.
The transitions towards the new action of this Don Juan are also in the scenes that Popovski makes as a view of the people which via movements or with few words shows their attitude towards the hypocrisy and the double morality.
The play does not ask questions such as: shall anybody punish the sin! Or: will anybody ask for forgiveness for his sin! It only asks for attention in the revealing of the details on which hypocrisy and double morality are created.
Still, it seems that the stage belongs to the idea of Aleksandar Popovski on his reading of Molière’s Don Juan in the totality of the realization, and now the acting habitus of Nikola Ristanovski is built in this idea. Together they reach the goal of the idea that is in front of them. Through what they have achieved, they prove that they are a director-actor tandem that functions through the togetherness of the interpretation of the view that they together reveal and them fulfill.
On the stage of the National Theater in Priština the director Vladimir Milčin with several more creators that are often his collaborators in other plays realized Roberto Zucco of the Frenchman Bernard-Marie Koltès (wrote the play in 1988, and died in 1989 as one of the first recognized victims of aids), whose text is assessed as radical and emotional, which is dominant in this play as well. This is the fourth play of Milčin in this theater, while the previous three were made in the eighties of the 20th century.
The main character is played by Refet Abazi, and what is very complicated for any actor – this is his second Roberto Zucco: the first one was played in Macedonian in the play of the Dramski Theater in Skopje six years ago (in 1999, as a diploma play of the director Dritro Kasapi).
The team of Roberto Zucco in Priština that comes from Macedonia, besides Milčin and Abazi, also consists of Krste S. Džidrov (stage setting), Marija Papučevska (costumes), Marjan Nečak (music). The other characters, besides actors of the Theater of Priština, are played by young actors who were selected by audition. Together on the stage of the play where only the main character has a name, and all others explanations (mother, girls, father, child, inspector, sister, Madame, guard…) are: Drita Begolli, Gresa Palashka, Aurita Agushi, Mensur Safchiu, Beslim Muchay, Drita Krasnichi, Chun Lajchi, Arta Muchay, Ramadan Malai, Artan Geca, Florie Baloku, Naser Rafuna, Adriana Morina, Fatime Sefai, Blerta Sula and Leonora Mehmetay. They play characters of broken lives, powerless people imprisoned in their misfortune, regardless to which layer of society they belong.
The questions, if you prefer, the crucial ones, on the man who has to destroy the traces of his existence if he wants to reach his purgatory, Refet Abazi as Roberto and the actors of the young generation bring to life through the contrasts with a register of signs in the game, costumes, stage setting elements and music of the team that is fully included in the search.
In his dramatic letters, Koltès establishes the determinants of the new European play in which the heroes are the rejected, violent, emotionally distorted men who speak, are silent, rebel, deny. These are people with traumas who exist between reality and ideals. Because they are, because the world recognizes them, the play of Koltès is played a lot in the last decade (first time in Berlin in 1990), and there was a movie made according to it. In the Anthology of New European Drama entitled MME (WTF)…, whose author if prof. Jelena Lužina, Ph.D. (Magor, 2004, Skopje), which has the title of Dejan Dukovski’s play Mame mu ebam koj prv počna (Who the Fuck Started All This?) as a title, the author says that this anthology dedicated to the new European drama can not miss a symbolic dedication to Roberto Zucco. In the introductory text Theater as a Slap on the Face, she concludes: I tell and prove to my students that this is a play that among other things, manages to announce in a masterful way what (violence) that will happen in the European drama work in the nineteen… I say and I prove that there have been announcements of it before, but there were many reasons for this play of Koltès to be stated by some critics that it functioned as the Hamlet of the 20th century.
This Hamlet of 20th century is played by the actor Refet Abazi for the second time. The interpretation of the same character in two directing concepts is a complex issue for any actor, and the burden of the six past years of Abazi’s life should be added to his current interpretation of Zucco, knowing that Zucco remained the same according to the years when it was written, and played for the first time by Abazi himself. The two elements are resolved by Abazi as Zucco in a way that matches the current view of the character and the totality of the play. The play of V. Milčin is well packed, with an esthetic code that he and Abazi set, but there is also a setting of the team that is in it. Because they worked with creators who meet each other the stage for the first time, and the process of work of the guests from Macedonia, they reach the goal together: the scream between the Heaven and Hell, between the mythical and real, between the earthy and underground. As an urban drama of the man who is marginal for the “healthy” societies, which criminalize the “sick individual”, it opens significant questions: who is the criminal, who are the hypocrites who create murderers-seekers of their own freedom, which is but an unstoppable fall in the abyss!? There are characters on he stage that are produced by those who pretend to be deaf and blind in the implementation of their moral worlds.
On his behalf, the director Vladimir Milčin interprets the author Koltès as a divine prophet who hinted a new and different dramaturgy; further on that Koltès left his will written on the margins of the society and the edge of life; that Zucco is Dionysius of our time, an underground deity torn apart by dead souls, by those whose road to salvation he marked in blood; a slap for the hypocrites and pure; nightmares in which the moral and politely civilized ones reveal themselves ad blind and deaf for the big suffering of this world, which slides more and more to the edge of the abyss… and they refuse to see this slide, this unstoppable slide to the disaster.
So, Roberto Zucco is both Hamlet and Dionysius, two different characters in one, regardless of the place and time they come from.
The difference is part of the current disaster against which the creators of this Roberto Zucco wage their theater battle. The basis is that Roberto Zucco of Refet Abazi is a man-individual who wants to preserve within himself what he thinks of himself. He kills his father, his mother, the inspector and a child. But is he a serial killer!? By killing, he wants to destroy the trace of his existence, to reach himself, his purgatory – the sun. His fall is a search for freedom, for the heavenly space above the world – prison in which the individual heads to disaster. This situation is played by Abazi with sensitivity in the breaking down of this twisted world, and it is produced in the co-play with the other characters. Together they create what the directing of Vladimir Milčin sets and resolves: Roberto Zucco (with the world around himself) to be Dionysius of our times, an underground deity who is torn to pieces by the dead souls of those whose path to salvation he has marked in blood.
It is clear that the achieved is a result of the recognition of the idea between the director Vladimir Milčin and actor Refer Abazi. All of their former processes of work (in other plays and with other characters) shape the system of this co-operation at the level of a tandem. But, in the total process of this Roberto Zucco is also the team with whom both of them have a proven record of co-operation: Krste S. Džidrov (this is his second stage setting on a play of Koltès’s text – the first one was made for Dramski, which is a complex work for a scene designer, because he has already expressed his idea on the text), and he has been working on V. Milčin’s plays’ stage settings for almost three decades; the co-operation with the costume designer Marija Papucčva and the co-operation with Marjan Nečak is also important, two creators with whom Milčin and Abazi co-operate.
р.ѕ. The team work in the implementation of these three plays is seen in their differences. It is confirmed that the recognized creators in a team function in their best way. The specifics are in the awareness of the exceptional difference that is implemented with creators who trust each other, interpret the ideas in a joint way and following the others.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska