Photo: Jelena Janković
Photo: Jelena Janković

Congrats on the Bitef’s Special Award Jovan Ćirilov and the Politika Award for the best director. Can we start the interview with your telling us a bit about yourself and your background in the arts? What inspired you to become a director and actor?

From a young age, I loved to coordinate an ensemble and create imagery and narrative. It was as if through the theatre I could speak more clearly about what I believe in and want to say. I loved and still love to paint. Colours.

Could you share some insights into how the themes of 'grief' 'mourning' and 'reconciliation with death' evolved in the development of the performance?

I always see it as an ongoing dialogue. Sometimes I feel relief, other days I feel terrible pain, certainly the tears helped a lot, the release in any way. Even through art. It's a kind of redemption.

Can you share if there are any personal experiences or reflections on loss that influenced the creation of "Goodbye, Lindita"? How did you navigate between personal and universal in your storytelling?

The whole idea started from something personal, the death of my stepmother. I thought that I wanted to talk about my pain, but how talking about me can also be about other people, that is, the performance should be autobiographical but not 100%, that is, someone shouldn't come and say "What happened to Mario”. And in a way we did it.

I had a sense that you have kind of time lapses between scenes and that they relate to ritual ties. How did you treat the time in your performance?

For me, time and how we manage it is very important. I liked the slow rhythm, and how this can drag on for so long that it can burst like a volcano. We did a lot of exercises that involved the rhythm and the time that each person had to coordinate with the others. My idea was that we are constantly being transported, one to the present, one to the past, and one to the future.

The absence of a dialogue is a striking feature of "Goodbye, Lindita." What led you to choose this particular narrative style? How does it enhance the storytelling?

I thought that for me, there was no space for words in my mourning. I experienced it as something silent, just a few muffled cries and that was it. Silence is a very difficult thing, it can tire the other person very easily, but it is also very powerful.

This play is very personal but you are expanding your own experience to a collective one, there are elements of the history and funerary customs of the Balkans. What motivated you to make this choice to shape the narrative and visual elements of the performance?

What motivated me was the experience of being at the funeral of a loved one. My stepmother. In a village in the Balkans. It was such a powerful experience that it carved me. When I started rehearsing, I started looking around for that and there was so much material. I have many references to customs in this particular work.

Can you tell us about Madonna Nera's significance and the black woman's presence in the storyline?

The choice of Madonna being a black woman comes from a personal reference and experience I had last summer on an island in Greece. It has a lot to do with what it means to be a foreigner in a country, as in the baptism scene I put the story of my mother's baptism and name change. Because she was a foreigner. Because she was a stranger. I liked that the protagonist may have a common wound with the black woman. That is, what it means to be a foreigner. To be something different.

Could you walk us through the creative process of bringing "Goodbye, Lindita" to life? How did you work with the cast and crew to realise your vision?

With several rehearsals and tests. I had various ideas that actors supported wonderfully and developed them. For me, it was a very creative process to make something that I had in my mind. To see it become tangible, through the set, the light, the sound and of course the power of acting.

After the performance at Bitef, we had a wonderful meeting with the audience, a talk that felt like a play in its own right. How did you feel and do you have any reflection now that you could share?

The discussion after the performance was a very powerful experience. We heard very tender words and wonderful reflections and thoughts. Very constructive process. I'm glad because they also contacted me via Instagram after the discussion. I am grateful and filled with joy to see that the project really touched people.

The performance received acclaim in Athens and is set to tour Europe. How does this positive reception impact your future projects or aspirations as an artist?

All of that opens some doors and this is very beautiful. When you make something based on your own value it's very nice to see it rewarded.

How has working on this performance influenced your own understanding of grief and the human experience?

I was confronted with the fact. And that was the gift of the project, it made me think about what has happened and accept it in a way. As much as you can accept something like that.

Bitef aims to promote emerging talents. How does it feel to have "Goodbye, Lindita" included in this year's selection, and what message do you hope it conveys to other aspiring artists?

I am happy to have participated in a festival like this one. The message I would like to give is that when you really have something to say, to communicate, there will be space to do it. Even if you have to go through various difficulties.

How do you see yourself as a director in the future?

I would like to live in the present and not think about the future. Certainly, if I hope for anything it's that I'm well and that I have the appetite for what I'm doing, and a lot of energy.