Photo: Jelena Janković
Photo: Jelena Janković

Ordinary Heroes

The first topic of the discussion focused on the very specific concept of the performances that Sebastijan and Milan have presented to Belgrade audience so far - all three of them consisted of two parts which mutually completely differed in style but which, when linked, tell a full story and create a perfect whole. Horvat and Ramšak Marković explained that this method was developed through contemporary dialogue with classic authors but that there are also two reasons, two basic aims that they pursued. The first one they call “dramaturgy of betrayal”, which they explained as a conflict in the aesthetics of the performance, which implies having the audience’s expectations, built up in the first part, twisted in the second part and thus “betrayed”. This leads to various responses by the audience because the change of style questions all the previously expected answers, which makes everyone draw their own conclusions at the end. This makes it possible for everyone in the audience to decide what it was all about - the revolution of the communist Yugoslavia or a personal drama of two ordinary people. The other reason is conceptual, which they call “choreography of longing”, and which relies on perpetual changing of the dynamic of the performance - introducing the audience’s focus and attention directly into the stage, only to symbolically bring them back to their seats. Afterwards, the discussion focused on the contextual symbolics of the work and the depiction of the current state in the ex-Yugoslav countries, which is neither negative nor romanticized. This performance is a part of a body which consist of three shows - in Zagreb, Ljubljana, and Belgrade - which clearly draws a parallel between the destinies of the people in these countries, as a consequence of their personal and collective revolutions.

Actress Milena Zupančič, then, joined the discussion, and the audience called her “the greatest Slovenian and Yugoslav actress”. She talked about the process, and the fact that the actors who play in the first part of the performance had their rehearsals separate from the ones who play in the second one up until the very end. She said that young actors are “full of energy and full of future”, that they reminded her of herself from the past, and that they became friends as soon as they met. Talking about the characters of Sonja and Miloš, she said: “We’re not really revolutionaries, but we are heroes in a way, for to survive in such bad situations, with all the bad things that happened, and to still want to live, they are heroes”.

Another actor who also participated in the discussion was Nedim Nezirović, who pointed out that younger actors worked towards reviving revolutionary spirit, but that their perspective changed once they saw the second part of the performance. He said that they strived towards creating one organism, getting connected, feeling each other on the stage. “As a young actor myself, I saw it as a unique experience, as an opportunity to see what theatre can build and what its foundations can be, so I am extremely grateful for it”.

One of the questions that came from the audience was from the artistic director of Bitef, Ivan Medenica, who once again mentioned the open structure of the performance and the possibility of various interpretations, and of the possibility to choose our own perspectives. Milan Ramšak Marković said that it is linked to the way we see theatre and consume art, how we read references and signs. Some art cannot be perceived rationally, it must be felt and experienced, physically. He added that the concept of this process imposed the necessity to start with the body and that it had to be constantly present. That is what the two parts of the performances have in common, that is what brings them together - body. Moreover, he asks whether the first part represents past or the future, whether it is the end or the beginning, whether it is a universal process of revolutions being started and crushed, and then all over again.

After that, Milena Zupančič talked about courage, revolution, heroism. Asked if it is possible to be a hero without a society and community which recognizes you as one, she said that nowadays it is impossible to be supported by the community, but that every kind of heroism is important; that today it is very hard to be a hero but that we must try. “We must be heroes. You can be on your own, you can suffer, but you must be heroes. You must always do what you think is right”, Milena said.

The discussion ended with an important question of our future, the one at the edge of which we currently are. Is it going to happen, if so, what is it going to be like, and what can we do to make it better and break this vicious circle between a courageous youthful revolution and its sad consequences that we saw on the stage? Sebastijan Horvat answered that it is important to believe that something is important, that we have the future, and to feel that a different system is possible, although we are not quite sure what it represents. He and Milan agreed that struggle is important, as well as community, and that theatre could serve as a model of that community.

You can see the entire discussion at the link provided, or Bitef YouTube channel.