The very idea for something to last for 24h is magnificent, especially in theatre. The entire epic trip, based on epic motifs and chosen work, and in terms of duration as well, is as important because now when we speak through mantras, through ancient prayers, when we meditate, anything. During an on-going repetition, you introduce your body to something, you are not just an observer anymore. We have been here for eight hours now and I can already see that the audience are slowly giving up on the idea of watching a performance but are becoming a part of it. That is exciting. Body chemistry is staring to change as we are slowly becoming a part of a myth. If we observe that in the development of Homo sapiens for seventy thousand years where we skipped all the steps of evolution, it is like this: first, our body has not evolved, and brain has not developed yet. It does not differ today than the one which existed thirty thousand years ago. That is how we watch ancient plays, while they actually tackle the same moral and social issues which we have today. Antigone wondering back then which laws she had broken having buried her brother is the same as any moral dilemma today. These 24 hours, our entering it completely and being brainwashed is the underlying idea of this year’s Bitef. That is why I see it as one of the most important ones, because it becomes theatre itself, not just watching theatre. Theatre in us and we are in theatre.
Goran Jevtić, actor
First of all, this is an enormous performance; it has stirred a sea of emotions within me, and I still haven’t managed to completely differentiate between all of them. It is very difficult to formulate a general impression and avoid some commonplace phrases. It is magnificent. Full of energy. It is an amazing form of modern physical theatre in connection to contemplating ancient tragedy in a modern way. I might manage to summarize my impressions by referring to the ending, that very moment when we are asked: is there an end and is it the end? Something unusual happened there, something that came as a logical sequel to all the previous unexpected situations in which the audience somehow became a part of the performance. Rarely do the audience so willingly participate in one performance, especially so spontaneously, uninvited. Not only did the performance establish a wonderful communication with the ones watching it but a small miracle happened: in the moment when the actors, either exhausted or simply having had to leave the stage, vacated the place of the chorus, which here went through some magnificent, modern modifications, the audience took their place. They took part in the performance and persisted until the very end, gaining momentum along the way. The ending was so powerful that the standing ovations started much earlier than the performance ended, as if the audience wouldn’t let them finish and leave the stage. The audience felt to be a part of it all and that is the magic of theatre and that special space which was created due to the energy which erased all the borders, owing to the great master who conceived it all. The audience was astonished by the moment in which they became a part of a dream so fantastic that you want it to go on and on, a dream you don’t want to wake up from, as they kept stating throughout the performance. I think everyone, or at least the ones who kept cheering at the end, wanted the performance to continue. Had someone informed us that it would go on for the next seven days, the audience, suddenly energized and awaken from all the everyday troubles and pressures, would have accepted it. For me, that is the most unforgettable experience from this performance.
Zoran Popović, film director, producer and professor
It has only just begun, which means it has lasted for only three hours. It’s very exciting. I’ve now come out just for a short break although I didn’t feel like coming out at all, but I had to stretch my legs a bit. I hope I will manage until the very end, and if it continues like this, then I certainly will.
Katarina Marković, actress
One thing is certain: actors and what they do on stage is really exceptional and they really are the top of European theatre, historically speaking. As for the interpretation of Jan Fabre’s metaphors, I would have to wait for it to be over, but I can say that it is his style, and that the fact that he draws his theatre interpretation from all the ancient events is something worth paying attention to by all the European and international audience searching for meaning in these muddled times. Though, the times were muddled in ancient times as well, but this does offer some kind of answer. It’s actually an answer that one has to be free and somehow break the system. If it can be done via culture, it’s wonderful.
Aleksandar Lazić, actor
It’s an absolutely amazing performance! I have been waiting for this for years. The pace is fantastic, the actors’ concentration too. Everything is going like clockwork, excellent. I came from Ljubljana to Belgrade just to see the performance and I’m really happy to be here.
Andrej Uroš Biček, tourist guide
I’m watching the performance for the second time, of course. I saw it first last year when I selected it and now I can compare the audiences’ response. I was somewhat reserved and dubious. I was afraid that our audience would not handle the time challenge very well. At first, I was negating the problem, I might have denied it too, but as the festival was approaching, I started panicking out of fear that it might not establish the communication with the audience. And yet, it functions perfectly, above any expectations. During the night, people kept moving in and out, and that is exactly as it should be. At two or three in the morning, half of the audience was always full, and it’s like that everywhere. As of nine thirty, from the scene of awakening on, the audience was again full. The morning scenes, from the awakening until the pause, were really intense both in energy and in emotions and one could really feel the atmosphere of trance because the audience is really in sync with that energy. They are participating with the performers who often stretch themselves thin on stage, because that is how it is directed. The audience has really begun to breathe together with the people on stage.
Ivan Medenica, Bitef artistic diractor
Art creates peace.
Boško Nikolić, landscape architect
The point is in the repetition and in duration. If it didn’t last this long, it wouldn’t make any sense.
Rastislav Ćopić, student
So far, I like it a lot. This is a big event and a very important one. I’m glad that television became a part of it all, because it deserved to be seen and heard far and wide. The taxi driver who brought me here said that he had already brought someone, which proves the visibility of a Belgrade theatre event which is to go on for 24 hours. Actors’ dedication and endurance are amazing. What they showed in the first half an hour is incomparably more energy and fitness than we usually get to see in theatre. The very idea that it is just the beginning is absolutely fascinating. Many scenes have touched and electrified me. Wonderful.
Lenka Udovički, theatre director
Calling this a spectacle is a gross understatement. This performance is conceived to hypnotise us all. It outreaches theatre as a context. When the audience come to a performance like this, the should forget about all the conventions and just abandon themselves and enjoy.
Pavle Terzić, student
It’s a crazy delirium which is excellent because it puts focus on man and not on gods. Enjoy your own tragedy is something people understand all too well. The performers are unbelievably strong, they generally are, but this performance surpasses human limits. I did three performances with them and it was always crazy. They are a fantastic troupe in which no one spares themselves, they are completely devoted and that is an amazing experience. In my opinion that’s the only option if you want art to succeed. Jan’s theatre always carries an amount of risk, and this, lasting for 24h, truly is on the edge of an abyss. I believe that it is shocking but if you abandon yourself, you can reach some new frontiers, and that is, unfortunately, a very rare experience today. They launched me through the universe and that was fabulous. They are like some crazy flyers, especially now, at the very end. It really was delirious.
Katarina Bistrović, actress
It’s fascinating, mostly the duration. Twenty-four hours of absolute continuity and their energy. Some of the scenes were more some less exciting, but altogether it was amazing. At some points, all of it made me feel the performers are somehow victimized by the director. They, in a way, are the material he uses to shape his ideas. Their endurance is fantastic, their strength and everything we have seen.
Vanja Ejdus, actress
The performance stirs the entire body to motion. This is my second time to see it so I don’t react to the same scenes but I’m discovering some new things, new states. The rhythm they follow, which causes them to slow down, even come to a complete halt, it definitely causes changes in the body. Everything is unbelievably powerful.
Tina Perić, theatrologist
My biggest impression was the scene with the chains. It is not the only thing I remember but it definitely is the first thing I think of when I think of the performance. That and the first music scene in which they dance for thirty minutes. They are completely harmonized throughout the performance, they are one compact whole. I kept wondering how their day before the performance looks like, or the two days after it.
Uroš Milojević, actor
It’s absolutely amazing, from the first second on, and I was so sorry I had to leave for a short while. The rhythm is great, the order of scenes is organized so that it constantly keeps your attention. It is exciting on so many levels - intellectual, visual and emotional. It gives me the feeling of total theatre. Myths, in their essence, are some basic stories about us, about the humanity. I feel somehow dragged into this meditative state, which makes me contemplate my own life and existence together with the performers. At the same time, all the people around me are doing the same thing and that is so powerful. We need catharsis for our inner purification. As human beings, we need catharsis and that is exactly what this performance offers, not only as a whole but each scene in itself. Another thing is the explicitness which is present from the very beginning, but lifted to an artistic level. At the same time, it is strong but completely artistic. It conveys power, emotion, intellectual precision, and that I don’t mind it, on the contrary - that explicitness is what makes this performance so strong. The scene in which grandma wraps her dead grandson’s body in white sheet - which are actually pieces of meat - and takes it in her arms with so much tenderness, it makes you fall apart, while it is done in a simple, subtle, meditative manner. It is filled with seriousness and fatality. I can’t wait to get back and continue watching it.
Ana Tomović, director
I found the chain jumping scene most powerful. It was exciting, interesting and interactive. The audience started replying. The introductory dance, dedicated to the god of wine, was also excellent.
Silvana Hadži-Džokić, literary author
I’d rather talk about the festival because talking about Fabre is impossible. I come from Zagreb where Bitef is talked about a lot this year, and I am very glad about that, because it really is a big success that Ivan has managed to bring this performance. It has visited only big festivals so far. It must be very demanding in terms of organization, finances and aesthetics. For a festival, it is very important to be talked about and to maintain a certain level in its surrounding which is, like ours, falling apart. The proof that Bitef succeeds in that, are these two thousand people who have come to see a performance for which your perception has to be truly developed.
Snježana Abramović Milković, manager of Zagreb Youth Theatre
The performance is developing. At the beginning, it was a bit monotonous, too white, and now it has developed, we’ll see where it goes.
Ivana Simeonović-Ćelić, director of Zepter museum
The survey conducted by Hana Selena Sokolović, Darija Vučko and Jovan Bosić