WORLD THEATRE FESTIVAL 2015.
Spectator, Romeo Castellucci’s Moses is not the prophet descending Mount Sinai with Tablets of Law in his hands. Nor is he the Moses imploring Pharaoh – Let My People Go – even though the title of the play – Go Down, Moses – is borrowed from the Louis Armstrong song. The old Moses is not to be found here. He is the abandoned child thrown into the water by his mother. “Every time a woman abandons her baby right after birth,” said the director, “I'm upset, I want to know everything about it: where she abandoned the baby – whether she threw it in the trash or left it in the toilet, or the freezer – if it was covered with plastic, or a blanket. It is always the same story. Its iconography is reproduced throughout time and it sediments through the ages.”
In Go Down, Moses a young woman has locked herself in the toilet, writhing in pain with blood dripping down her legs. The tiles, sink and the mirror are all spattered with blood. There’s an impatient knock on the door on the other side. The devastating crudity of this scene is typical of Castellucci’s aesthetic. Dramatic events are often portrayed directly and then pushed to the limit of endurance, and the representable. Although chilling, they are not without tenderness, simultaneously arousing fear and empathy.
Spectator, you will be invited to connect sequences that excite and take your breath away. The child abandoned at birth incites pain, evokes misfortune or a great hope. That’s what we have been told by great stories, and Moses’ story echoes through the whole history of humanity. The play is composed of sequences from contemporary life and the ancient scenes from the dawn of civilisation. The visitors look at the exhibits in a gallery, a huge print machine has grabbed human hair, sounds of explosions, a recording of the machines in a steelworks, a cosmic storm in the background. The woman who has abandoned the child is being interrogated by the police. In the next scene she is at the hospital where they are having her brain scanned, as in a Scandinavian crime film. In the black hole of memory we will witness an accelerated journey through the history of the world and man’s terrible fear of death. From the operating room to the cave with naked Neanderthals from the time before tools and fire, we are haunted by the pain of the loss of the child. Castellucci’s play may as well be the theatrical version of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The actors of the tg STAN troupe open The Cherry Orchard with short personal addresses to the audience. They use, perform or just retell the stage directions. Upon completion of the scene they comment on what they have done and are already preparing lighting and stage elements to continue with the play, up to the dance of their own (self-)destruction. Ten actors remain on stage all the time, and all the elements of Chekhov’s universe are there: melancholy, nostalgia, the beauty of human despair. All these overblown emotions are portrayed with measure, with a fitting dose of irony. Such a well-thought-out, and yet so impulsive play is a rarity. If the Russian and Eastern European theatre has established a canon of how to stage Chekhov’s texts, tg STAN are the most apt contemporary company whose principles are based on a thorough reconstruction of emotion.
Although Katie Mitchell cites Pina Bausch, Anatoly Vasiliev and Lev Dodin as influences, British blood fills the heart of her theatre. She has a love of precise direction and a respect for good craft. Interestingly enough, she is best received and most often invited to work in Germany, whose critics are sceptical of plays that look too polished – fearing it may cover up a lack of depth. Mitchell has a reputation for being overly intellectual, yet her plays are warm, chatty, with a very British tendency to illuminate the most abstract ideas. Her work was best described by Leo Warner, who said that she's trying to examine people in increasingly forensic detail; she fragments them then brings them back together. That’s why she insists that theatrical scenes should look like cinema – and is obsessed by details.
Teater NO99 was founded in Tallinn eleven years ago, and their production NO51, entitled My Wife Got Angry, is a rare occasion for us to experience the diverse and prolific contemporary Estonian theatre production. The countdown is on, and when they reach zero they will exist no more, and there will only be records and memories left of them. Their work can only partially be characterised as documentary. The company is made up of two dramatists and ten actors, and each of their plays deals with a specific aspect of society. From the perspective of transition, the Estonian case could be inspiring for Croatia. It is one of the most developed European countries in the field of information science, and its theatre has been transformed from a social-realist Soviet type into a creative and interdisciplinary one. NO99 create a social saga composed of fascinating episodes, each different in form and content. One of them deals with an ad hoc created political party. My Wife Got Angry with Me and Deleted All the Pictures from our Holidays starts from an attempt at reconstructing lost family pictures, those privileged moments of togetherness. The play opens with a long prologue in silence, reminiscent of the most brilliant moments of Jacques Tati’s films, but transferred into the era of erotic-narcissistic selfies. Layers of everyday life are stripped down one by one, the actors freely immerse themselves into the performance.
Dubravka Vrgoč and Ivica Buljan