Theatre, as a form of art, is able to transfigure taboos and misery into Beauty. This beauty has deep meanings and becomes a way through which we can deal with delicate issues, since it gives us the courage to tackle them. Victor, or Power to the children, Wozzeck, and Parallel are very good examples of this process.
The first one is a drama written in 1928 by the French surrealist playwright and poet Roger Vitrac (1899-1952). Victor is a “dreadfully intelligent” child-not child that celebrates his ninth birthday. This day represents a sort of milestone, a transition from his being a model child to a new situation where Victor behaves badly and he is full of anger against the people who surround him, that is his family and the closest friends of his parents.
What kind of adults look after him and Esther, his little best friend? In the crisis of certainties which precede and follow the First World War, they are a representative sample of a dissolute upper middle class whose values are inexorably lost. It is not the class who gave birth to the French revolution and to economic development any longer, neither it is a source of progress and high ideals. Far from being the protagonists of the legendary “belle époque” of the early 20th century, Vitrac’s bourgeoisie are depraved puppets, caricatures of human beings who do not know who they are anymore; they have no direction, no values apart from the lowest instincts that they blindly follow.
Depravation and violence are crudely shown: I felt uncomfortable with the scenes of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated against the little girl; Esther is indeed the very victim of the play, her body being the helpless pray of the people who surround her.
I saw no redemption within the plot, the only relief from this universe of moral desolation was given by Beauty, as I have alluded at the beginning of this article. Both the scenery and the soundtrack were indeed fascinating.
The scenic design was absolutely wonderful with its reminiscence of the perspectives drawn by Leon Battista Alberti in the Renaissance. It is pure in its essential lines and colours; the flight of perspective lines leads the eyes to the background. All the space available on the stage is wisely and widely used. When suddenly a wall cracks an even wider space is suggested behind the broken background; it is a highly evocative way to imply ‘a behind’, the secret world of the subconscious, the remote possibility of salvation, the perhaps dangerous presence of other invisible characters.
What I found very interesting was that at some point the actors started singing and in this way the play became a contemporary opera. As András Visky said during the dialogue with the creators, not only has the director, Silviu Purcărete, an incredible sensitivity as a visual artist, he also treats the text as an orchestral score.
Similarly, the play Wozzeck seems to not leave any hopes: the soldier’s everyday life is a sequence of humiliations, both from his comrades and from his wife, a prostitute who cheats on him. He is the only character who still has ideals and fights for them, yet the morally degraded environment he is immersed in conducts him to madness, and in a moment of desperation he kills his unfaithful partner. In the final scene of the play, prostitutes and soldiers threateningly walk in circle around Wozzeck’s child. What will happen to that disgraced creature? A sense of bitter uncertainty is left to the audience, like in Victor, or Power to the children.
Parallel offers instead a fresh wind of optimism. It is an innovative, modern and contemporary performance, an explosion of dynamism, both physical and mental. The two young and very talented performers, Lucia Mărneanu and kata bodoki-halmen, fill the stage with their actions first, and with questions, opinions and songs afterwards. The spectators are invited to think over topics such as lesbianism, sexual identity, prejudices, and freedom. The two girls explore their bodies by using masculine “icons”, such as the soccer ball and the urinal, and by doing so they question their own femininity.
At the beginning, they perform a long gymnastic session. They push their bodies to the limit of their resistance through exercises which are both typically feminine (aerobics and dance) and masculine (press-ups and dumb-bells), done progressively faster. Then they denude themselves and start moving in the space using the soccer ball and the urinal. It was impressive watching the actions through which they tried to flatten their breasts with the hands and then with cello tape, in order to kill their femininity.
After this mute performance, they started talking about what being lesbian today means, Lucia making witty and funny jokes, Kata singing with her beautiful voice songs composed by her.
It was really amazing and I believe these two performers not only are very skilled, they also are brave and extraordinarily sincere in the way they face such delicate themes.
This is my last article for Interferences 2014, an incredibly enriching experience! Being part of Interferences was fantastic, during these two weeks I have laughed, cried, I have met amazing people and discovered more about myself. I feel that I am a better person and that a true process of catharsis took place deep in my soul.
I would like to thank all the people who made it possible. Thank you for the great theatre, art, emotions, debates, and thoughts which I will never forget.
Never Say End
The last day of the festival the feelings around were a mix of emotions, while we were all together cheering to the job done. I experienced that specific feeling that comes after sharing long session working with the same people, you magically feel part of the same big family. You wake up in the amazing sensation of belonging to something special, strong and delicate at the same time. The festival ended with the big majority of us dancing at the TIFF House, shaking with the electronic rhythm by Dj Goranga.
I ended up at home at 5 in the morning, and not yet satisfied I cooked a pasta, just to keep the Italian tradition up. The great staff is that I said I was just going for a drink, but how could I resist? I felt so much melt with the people, that I could not renounce to live that amazing and rare feeling of empathy. The night gave me the chance to have a chat with Guy Zimmerman, the director of Fractalicious!, we shared our point of views on his performance, I explained him why I was critical on it, it ended up that he decided to make some changes. This simple thing shown me once again the positive extravaganza of this festival, a no-place where there are no borders, or silly feelings of superiority, instead it is where everyone experienced an environment made of equality, that is at least my perception.
Before getting to TIFF House, I spent some time in the smoking area of the Theatre with Martina Pozzan and Francesco Bianchi from the Italian company Groupe Presence IUAV, who performed Alban Berg's Wozzeck, directed by Csaba Antal. I had with them a passionate conversation about Theatre and the real meaning of Festivals. Francesco Bianchi had a very interesting point of view, he told me that he is a theatre author and the all the company was made of people coming from different artistic environments. Apparently none of them was an actor, for this reason, he told me, he understood why part of the audience did not like their performance.
The audience should have entered the theatre, that evening, keeping in mind that they were going to watch a workshop. In his opinion this was a necessary awareness, without it the understanding of what the performers were doing on the stage could have been mistaken. At the same time it was interesting how he was comparing a theatre festival to a trade show, this comparison was far from the idea of depersonalising the audience and theatre itself, instead he was stressing in the fact that both shared one characteristic, variety. For this reason a Theatre Festival will contain high quality and low quality. What to add? This thinking has its reason to exist, let's say that it is a very positive way of thinking, and also a good point of view. The best moment in my festival experience was during the buffet, I had the chance to sit with all the girls who work in the cloakroom. I do believe they were an important part of the festival engine. We laughed a lot and took photos together, we were showered by spontaneity and simple happiness.
The last performance I watched was Caesarean Section. Essays on Suicide, performed by Teatr ZAR in the Studio. What to say? If it is about to express the drama in one persons life, it is just perfect, the mental pain is translated in dance movement, the tension passes through the tensed muscles of the artists. The choreography is dark, deep and hitching, it pushes you to swim in the inner and fearful feeling that I believe any human being possesses. Music, voices and bodies create a perfect balance, expressing a negative powerful strength. A great and important job for the artists. Yes the festival is over, but I hope its spirit will continue.