Blesok no. 48, May-June,2006
Same Text, Staged Twice
In two months, Hristo Bojčev’s text “Orkestar Titanik” (Titanic Orchestra) was staged twice at two Macedonian theatres – at the Macedonian National Theatre and in the National Theatre in Kumanovo. The text provoked, almost parallelly, two directors, two groups to have it at their repertoires. It is a fact that the plays of Bojčev have been played for almost a decade not only at Macedonian theatres, but also in many European and world theatres. In his plays, Bojčev mainly looks for the small man globally lost in the tempests of our times, in the countries where there is the well known and praised transition, pressured by the poverty and the power of the self-proclaimed bullies; the small man who wonders from here to there, sinks, is lost and tortured by himself and those similar to him.
One of these plays of Hristo Bojčev (Bulgaria), placed in the global cruel reality in which the small man is entrapped is “Orkestar Titanik”. This play, for example, has been staged at around thirty theatres and in more than fifteen languages in the last couple of seasons. In Macedonia only, besides the two in Skopje and Kumanovo, was also played at the National Theatre in Prilep last year.
“Orkestar Titanik” shows the world in which we live with a strong feeling of satire: the transition, lost people who do nothing, except live in some futile hope, waiting and arguing. They are all on the wrong side of the life, and they do not even know the other side. So, in comic-satiric situations, the heroes trapped in the dark side of their current life are created by Bojčev as precisely shaped wonderers faced with the changes in societies, here or there. “They are waiting for the train, or hope at the wrong place. All trains to Europe and the world have some other destinations, other stations, other paths…”
As the heroes of Becket in “Waiting for Godot”, the heroes of Bojčev are in the absurd: the bear trainer Duko, the former railway station manager Luko, the pregnant bride Ljupka and the former artist Mate hope to something, not knowing to what, and the great illusionist Harry Houdini joins them from somewhere as well. He allegedly knows the salvation, and it is nothing else but illusion. At an association level, they are members of the orchestra of the sunken ship Titanic, who know that the ship sinks and they can not be saved, so they play their music… The author Bojčev goes even further: he claims that their music was heard in the waters of Atlantic Ocean even after the ship had sunk – as the echo of the hope and powerlessness. As a matter of fact, the characters of Bojčev consider life to be Titanic, where (the ship, place, dirty railway station where no train had stopped for a long time) we are all passengers. The question is how to save ourselves? Because there is no specific and definite answer, it is quiet clear that only the great illusionist Harry Houdini knows the salvation. Only he can “save the whole orchestra” with one of the most grandiose tricks “Ale-hop”! On the other hand, both the play and its two current performances speak of a truth: that hope is born on the garbage dump. Only among the trash that is thrown from everywhere and everywhere, maybe, there is also the hope to find something.
“Orkestar Titanik” had its opening at the stage of the Macedonian National Theatre on 19 June 2006. The director is Dimitar Stankoski, with the actors Vlado Jovanovski, Magdalena Rizova Černih, Nino Levi, Vasil Šiškov and the guest Vasil Zafirčev; the music was made by Venko Serafimov, the costumes by Marija Papučevska, and the stage setting was made by Ilina Angelovska. Everybody is alone; everybody is a victim of the time in which we live in fear: you never know who can shove a knife in your back. The persons and events are placed by Bojčev in an atmosphere of a deliberate farce in which life rolls through seemingly nothing significant, because the basis has an apocalyptic course.
But, all the values of the associative and almost crystallized text of Bojčev are only heard in this performance. The play sinks at the relation directing-actors. At these two levels, the key with which the time and the man lost in it will be seen on the stage. Stankoski, who is known by the good selection of actors, which is always a great advantage and value of his directing could and should have created a different world with partially other actors who would feel the characters from within. The text and characters ask for a play that does not twist, does not stand still, does not rely on external effects. On the contrary, it has all elements to play a state of disaster, unsuccessful transition story in a country where there are neither happy people, nor a success story. There are only doubts, waiting, hopes and illusions.
The interpretations of the actors are more of situations of some other characters – played once, some of them never played, and of course, now are beyond the given ones. The symbolic aspect of the fact that the musicians of the Titanic orchestra played until the very end (hope dies last) and the music was heard even after the definitive sinking of the ship, does not even start in this performance. The situations in which the characters are the ones that show the truth that there is no escape from here, that the closeness of the system as opposed to the links with the world with a system of rails on which the trains move in all directions in such a picturesque way, while we are passed by or wait at wrong stations, that the world is a Titanic and that the only light is the escape in the illusions, are not played in a form that will show the real situation: people who run from themselves, who do not want to face themselves and in their escape or in their despair create friendships in which there is no honesty. No mutually common issues are sought in the play. The text is becoming Macedonian at times, the actors are helped by four singers whose songs look for the superficial side of the situation. Everybody and everything goes to different directions in the play. If V. Šiškov is completely outside his character, if Rizova Černih reminded me of an old character of hers – the Old Lady in “Dead Souls” although now she plays a character of a young pregnant woman, if Jovanovski and Levi are alone in their non-understood acting, the guest V. Zafirčev at least brought me back to the character with which he entered the theatre at the big door – the young man in “Elešnik”, also directed by Stankoski (without the main stress being on the corporal aspect). There is one good scene in the play – the sinking of the musicians in the cold water, which is little, too little for any hope for any more positive twist in the complete play. The complexity of the psychological states of the characters that is precisely set at Bojčev and correctly dimensioned, has to come from their inside, in this staging only has the need of playing/stressing the transition labyrinth from outside. This is done via signs that are expressed via the ultimately unnecessary melodrama and caricatures. They act at a level of imaginary real picture of what we live, with few signs that because of the dosage in which they are given only serve to show already seen and boring political situations and symbols.
The directing of Ljubiša Georgievski at Kumanovo stage has a cruel truth at its basis – hope is born at the garbage dump. “Orkestar Titanik”, conceived like this at the stage of the National Theatre in Kumanovo, whose opening was on 18 March 2006, has a course with many meanings. The complete team in this performance is in the function of this idea: the actors Goran Ilić, Aleksandra Peševska, Dragiša Dimitrijevski, Dragan Spasovski and Gorast Cvetkovski, the stage setting of Ljubiša Jovanovski, costumes of Meri Jovanov, Robert Simonovski, who is directors assistant, and the director himself who also chose the music for the play.
All of them created a play that has a lot of honesty and lot of labor with a specific result. This is a play that communicates through its layers based on mutual honesty and respect to work, and it honestly communicates both on the stage and with the audience.
The first level is in the realization between the acting and directing, that is, in the revealed many layers and dramaturgically set course of the idea and situations in the play of Bojčev. The second is in the way in which Ljubiša Georgievski stages the play: as a theatre play on a theatre stage which, as a system, opens a common space to realize himself along with all others in it. That is why they are all safe and secure in the process of weight of the existence which turns it into a funny tragedy in which they had all invested a lot, and it is recognized by the audience. But, it also laughs at them being lost in their own troubles. The third one is in the way and investment of each of the five actors – to find themselves and confidently, together with the director, create a world where one waits for some salvation at the level of absurdity, which, of course, neither comes nor is it known if it ever will. Hope, is born in the garbage dump, isn’t it?
They are all sure of the situation: hopes for future only have sinking. That is what pulls us deeper and deeper. Moving around or trying to save yourself is only a confirmation of the general apathy. The hope of a new and different world is interpreted by the actors through what can only be the reflection of an empty soul, which sinks in the old things, although it reaches for the new.
The hope is in the illusion. Life that sinks as the passengers of the ship, now placed at Titonic, a house-land that is breaking apart and where the travelers-residents will maybe be saved by an illusionist, a seller of tricks. The one who comes from nowhere, who can play his tricks that he claims are unique, is disguised in front of the mirror that can be found in each theatre wardrobe.
A play has been created that is trusted, both when it was being prepared, and now, when it is completed. One believes everybody in the difficulty of the situation and the investment in it which has a strong reflection in the acting of the actors who become real heroes, sufferers and martyrs of the mess in which everybody who believes in salvation sinks.
The directing of Georgievski, the stage setting frame of Jovanovski and the costumes of Jovanov are together with the actors in the comical-tragic situations. Everything takes place in the theatre – in front of the mirror in the wardrobe and at the stage where there are rehearsals. The salvation from the dike side of the life, the only one for man who is at the wrong place and on the wrong side is being rehearsed. There are rehearsals of the waiting for the train, and all trains for Europe and world have some other destinations, other stops, other paths. The situation of “there is no escape from here” is played, along with the lingering question of whether the life on Titanic of Titonic is eventually, the only possible escape to illusions.
Georgievski (after last year’s unsuccessful return to theatre, after his ambassadorial work, with the play “Richard III” in Bitola) is now again at his field: he implements a pure idea and attitude to theatre in which the actor is safe in the work with the director. Although he used both verbal and symbol citations of what he has created, taken by the depth of the play, he definitely also researches and reaches the real garbage dump in which the life here is placed. The actors and characters are in the trash that is only piled up coming from everywhere. He mocks life in which the small good man moves around, but remains with the hope of his salvation. The hermit is an illusionist, the clown has no future, the masks (after each show) fall. Everybody remains for himself and with everybody else to survive like a juggler, in the middle of the garbage dump where “the bear” – the one who leads him or drives him, runs the train according to his own schedule.
The actors carry the entire burden until the end: a kind of a circus or parade of clowns. In a space that looks like a stinky garbage dump, where they are lost within their characters, disenfranchised marginal people – victims of the transition processes. They act the situation of lost values till the end, suffocation in their own screams, real apathy and lack of force or motive to rebel, individually or collectively and show their revolt that is growing: as a garbage dump growing bigger by the minute.
Do people need only bread and theatre, is one of the questions of the play. The hypnosis is an escape from the reality, but man has to wake up from it. The awakening in this “Orkestar Titanik” is in the truth and honesty with which it was made. In the strength of the actors to believe in themselves, the director and the text. That is why the characters are made from within, according to Stanislavski whose system of game is literally spoken and implemented in the function of realization. The gradation is in the honesty of the acting of the five actors. They are strictly precise in playing the life from within, passengers who look for the salvation in the tricks of the illusionists, in the concept of the play where everything starts and ends with the idea that Hope is born at the garbage dump!
Translated by: Elizabeta Bakovska