Blesok no. 46, January-February, 2006
State of General Zombification
In a situation of general zombification, a word that sublimes the situation of this country Macedonia, the theater and its creators, as the complete culture, are a “poor life”. This life is developing metastases, it threatens, destroys. If the professional theaters create and maintain their repertoires by sheer “muscle force” of the hope that dies the last, to which they are fully entitled, there is another segment of the theater space that dies, so to say, in its prime, but rises from its ashes and moves to another one. These are the plays/projects that are created outside the institutions and which, as a rule, after they are shown to the public, do not incite any interest. Except for, of course, their creators.
There are a significant number of plays that are created outside the institutions. They are prepared with an even bigger enthusiasm (oh, until when!), but they also have the worst of fate. Their creators prepare them there, and they are happy when they find the space to play the opening night – in rented halls for which they pay high prices. After the enthusiasm passes, after the opening night ends and the play is shown for one/two more times, enthusiasm ends with the money that can be used to pay the venue. A new venue is sought; one which costs more money and the circle is closed. The play created as an independent project dies. At least at home.
Here there are two, that is three, quite significant elements. First, these plays that have like-minded authors gathered around the project, most of the time have a high artistic value. They are made to defy the time, the general zombification, there is lot of love invested in them, against the wind, there is a lot of knowledge there, and there are no compromises. So, these are good plays that reveal, they work following the system of theatre laboratory, they are created in hope that one should and has to reach the top. Second, they are very penetrable, because of the composition of all elements in them, and they become plays that international festivals and events that cherish this type of theatre are interested in.
The thing that they have in common is the third and most paradoxical element: there is no place outside for them, and nobody likes them at home, as the authors themselves say. The latest examples of these (although there are many) are the three plays: Posledniot maž, poslednata žena (The Last Man, the Last Woman), Kontaminacija Kolyada (Contamination Kolyada) and ZOO Story, which were staged in 2005, and now (only after one, two or three times), nobody can see them anymore. All three plays will be staged in other spaces this calendar year, outside the country. This selective choice of three plays can of course be expanded to many other, which the audience around the world sees more than the local ones due to the lack of their own space. There are, for example, two more titles that belong to the “independent production”, which can not be seen by the audience in Macedonia, while they are shown around the world, collecting audience approval and festival awards: Diary of the Madman, directed by Ivan Popovski, and Father, directed by Slobodan Unkovski.
Still, I will write about the three new plays, which were staged with little announcement in the media, and which were not even discussed about by the theatre critics.
Posledniot maž, poslednata žena is a production of the newly establishe dtheatre Planeta and the Ephemeride group from Rouen, France. The play was written by Jordan Plevneš, directed by Dimitar Stankovski, and the music was written by Venko Serafimov. The play has its worthy CV: it was prepared in the late night times at Dramski Theatre in Skopje, its opening night was in Rouen in April last year, it was also shown in Paris, it was seen and will be seen by the audience on several tours outside the country, it was the participant of the last year’s festival of chamber theatres “Risto Šiškov” in Strumica; the actor Vasil Zafirčev won the only festival award, it was played once in Skopje, as part of the Young Open Theatre 2005, at the Youth Cultural Centre. But, as the other projects created outside the institutional theatre, it has a problem with the space in which the authors and the audience would meet regularly. Nobody wants it.
Plevneš has continued paining events and persons that ask questions about these times, exposed to various terrors. This is done with broad moves that are revealed in the idea of humanity at a global level. It is about the last man, regardless whether it is a woman or a man, and it is the last because he is at the last stage of humanity. Both of them are the last creatures of this world that is not exemplary, closed, and they desperately try to keep the remains of humanity in their mad project that will take them to the absolutely eternal truth – love. The play has the subtitle International Conspiracy in 100 Images with a Prologue and an Epilogue, and Plevneš explains his characters in this way: Last Man – actor interventionist, player and speaker; and the Last Woman – teacher, admirer and environmentalist.
The director Stankovski skillfully gives over the stage to Saška Dimitrovska and Vasil Zafirčev. Merged in a love dance, they create a view of now and the future. The concept is clear: the idea of the ethical side of the society that will be pro-human and not anti-human is promoted. The tragic accord of the two characters is precisely placed by Stankovski in the play of Zafirčev and Dimitrovska. As a strongly expressed irony on life in a world where the consequences of the conspiracy against man are paid. The characters fight their battle via their fear of world terror knowing that they lose it at the moment, and hoping that they will win the war.
Vasil Zafirčev as the Last Man follows the last desperate staging of the vision for the free spirit. The time on stage is the time of flying and fall of a disoriented intellectual. Saška Dimitrovska as the Last Woman is seen as the embryo of something first, as the opposite of the last. Or as the beginning. Her play also opens the question: what was the first woman like? It also shows that her love is alike a bridge that helps the Last Man see his visions of free spirit.
Via the associative game with feelings that look for the present in the future (after the significant cutting of the text) and with the music of Serafimov as the third partner in the action, Zafirčev and Dimitrovska build a world with temporal and spatial moves, secure in themselves and in what they have created with Stankovski. This play draws in the viewer as well. The magic lasts, the tragic accord of the conspiracy against the freedom echoes, and there is an answer as well: the characters that Plevneš names memorials, play several characters in their counter-conspiracy, to eventually become united in their message against the chaos in the world in which they were dipped by somebody else, some other interests.
Twelve young people tell us a theatre story that is absolutely theirs in a joint project that shows their absolute truth: they play true characters of marginal people in this time. Following the idea of professor Vladimir Milčin, they named it Kontaminacija Kolyada (Contamination Kolyada). Although this is formally the final exam of acting of the students of the final year at the Faculty of Drama Arts in Skopje in the class of professor Milčin, the play was supposed to have its stage life outside the university. In September it was played at the Children’s Theatre Centre in Skopje, as a project that was supposed to open a new process: Faculty of Drama Arts and CTC as partners in creating theatre production that would be a challenge for the artists and the audience as well. But the money had its toll: it is found nowhere, or nobody wants it. A good idea for cooperation of the two institutions, one of them educational and the other one artistic, and both have the same aim – to create following the principle of workshop-lab, but it did not work out, or not for now, although it is expected that it participates at student or similar events.
Why is Kontaminacija Kolyada a significant project? First: because its creators play the situation of the young people lost in transition here or anywhere. Second: because they play the characters created by Nikolay Kolyada (1957, Russia), one of the most provocative and most staged contemporary playwrights, who managed to sharply and shrewdly present the cruel topic of man from urban periphery – the man of the periphery of life. Third: professor and director Vladimir Milčin knows and loves the dramatic manuscript of Kolyada (he has staged the plays Murlin Murlo and Zemjomer at professional theatres), and Kontaminacija Kolyada is created from characters and scenes from the plays Murlin Murlo, Zemjomer, Hen and Fiery Polonaise, according to his students. Fourth: it is made following the lab principles, where everybody enters together and everybody puts in their maximum.
This is a complex play (which is not the case with the final exams), because it also includes Marjan Nekak, author of the music; Marija Papučevska, author of the costumes, and Krste S. Džidrov, author of the stage setting.
The twelve actors who are contaminated heroes and create the story on stage as a tragic-comedy are: Maja Nastevska, Jasmina Micovska, Daniela Stojanovska, Blagica Trpkovska, Neda Nikolik, Ilina Čorevska, Sonja Stamboldžiska, Slaviša Kajevski, Gorast Cvetkovski, Saško Kocev, Stojan Velkov and Nikola Projčevski. The unbearable weight of living is played as if they are wrestles in the arena in which their hands are tied behind their backs. They are the characters/losers tied between the reality and the dreams that crawl on the short distance between life and death. Regardless of what their names are or what they are, they create characters that come from nowhere, move nowhere, crawl on the roofs, dream in the color of the madness of this time, starve, and if there is anything, they eat relentlessly, disappear in the abyss of life that rolls with the speed of free fall. They build their phantasmagoria that shows the transition in which there is less and less space for man.
Professor and director Vladimir Milčin individually brings in the student actors contaminated with theatre in the “pot of his creativity”, via characters or atmosphere in which they all know what they are and where they are and everybody is recognized and participates in the collective Kontaminacija Kolyada.
The two actors – Vebi Kerimi and Sefedin Nuredini with their colleague Bajrush Mjaku, now as a directors, and all three actors at the Albanian Theatre of Skopje, have looked for and found their way to themselves and the audience, as opposed to the inability to stage such a project as a production of their employer – the Albanian Theatre. At the beginning of last November, they were given the space in the yard of the Theatre for one evening. There were less than hundred viewers who saw their ZOO Story that evening, as written by Edward Albee (USA).
Kerimi and Nuredini play with a new quality in the play, defying the general zombification. The result is summarized in two principles: the setting and pure acting.
The play was an independent project, applied to participate at several international festivals, there will be visits out of the country, but nobody wants it here, and it was not staged anywhere after the opening night. Then it was played out in the open, in the small and fenced mid-yard of the Theatre, as a production of the Theatre and Film Production B.M.
This ZOO Story depends on the selected ambience and the mastership of the acting. The story of Albee is followed, strange in itself, where the author dramatically skilful mixes the sentimentality and cynicism. Jerry of Vebi Kerimi and Peter of Sefedin Nuredini are characters in which they build their talents, as the directing of Mjaku insists. They play the story openly and almost without any other stage effects. Everything is left to their power to reach the peak: subtle, explained, strong, convincing. The double situation is presented. Jerry of Vebi Kerimi is the prototype of a disappointed and destroyed man who does not see any reason to go on living, but he also does not have the force to do what he wants – to kill himself. Through the process of sentimental cynicism, with all challenges and calculations with oneself and his life, the man that he meets by chance is selected to be the executor of what he can not do. It is Peter of Sefedin Nuredini, who is faced with the game of death and with death (as we find out in the end) by chance – on the bench in the park where he regularly rests reading.
Everything in the interpretation of the two actors is a pure, realistic play. Left to the characters and the close view of the audience, the actors reveal one layer after another, although some of the layers of Albee’s play are not very clear. The senseless life of Jerry, as a strong scream against the absurd lasting of the absurd life, is played by Vebi Kerimi at strongly suggestive level that is seen in almost all situations in which Jerry is. He starts calmly, via sentimental feelings, when he tells us about his occasional need to talk to a real man on how it happened that he went to the ZOO. The explanation is cynical: to find out more on the way in which people live with the animals and how the animals live with each other, that is, how the animals live with people, separated by cages. The absurdity reaches its culmination when he enters the final stage of his idea: insulting and challenging he makes his accidental collocutor to kill him in a staged fight. All the scenes and phases of his character are played by Kerimi in an elaborated energy and with punctual association.
Peter of Sefedin Nuredini is closed in his provincial ideas and habits. As opposed to Jerry, Nuredini’s Peter is a character with strange calmness, inner color and closed in himself. The result is a game that is played via signs of living authenticity. The bitterness, absurdity, surprise, satisfaction or suspense about what is to follow or what has already happened are leveled via the directing of Mjaku. Together they build, decompose, and turn everything into an absurd, shadowed by the death that they want an executor for. The acting habitus of Bajrush Mjaku is in everything that they perform, as he insists in his directing that they both reveal and play their characters via themselves. That is why the places of all three of them are precisely determined and fulfilled in their ZOO Story.
P.S. The topics that these three plays tell about are fierce. Just as the life of their creators and their audience is. Is it one of the possible reasons that here and now nobody wants them!? Probably not! Maybe they are just victims to the general zombification that prevails in the country, culture and theatre.
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska