Photo: Jelena Janković
Photo: Jelena Janković

Language games and authoritarian society

At the beginning, the director Miloš Lolić and the dramaturge Periša Perišić talked about their approach to the original text by Peter Handke. According to them, the text has been minimally adapted and mostly goes by the original, although the concept of the performance has a contradiction in its attitude to it. Since it was written in two columns, it cannot be read simultaneously, which represents a major challenge in terms of staging. They called the contradiction in relation to the text an “implicit dramaturgy”, which implies almost no interventions but a different editing. “Our first challenge and the main principle was not to ruin Handke’s work”, Miloš Lolić says. “In a way, we wanted to be fair to the author, although we stabbed him in the back and took the text over in order to create something else”.

One of the participants in the discussion was Kaspar himself - young actor Miodrag Dragičević, who said that this process was for him the most difficult one so far, considering the pressure he felt to bring his character to life “without letting Handke down”. He was laughing while he explained that the most challenging segment of the process, apart from being in a plexiglass box, was to learn a 120-page-long text which he is, actually, still learning.

Lolić and Perišić talked about language as a means of expression which has a special treatment in their work. “How can I explain my passion?”, Lolić describes that treatment, and said that this interpretation of Kaspar was not linked only to the text and speech, for otherwise it wouldn’t be attacking Handke the way it does. Periša pointed out that they are not dealing with language itself, but that it is a research of audio phenomenon and audio aesthetics and poetics, and since we live in a society dominated by screens, audio phenomenon is a complex question. They started their research on the performance The Еnthusiasts by Robert Musil, presented at 43rd Bitef 2019, and with Kaspar, they are taking it into new depths.

Ivan Medenica spoke about language, culture and theatre as crucial parts of identity that can as easily be turned into mechanisms of oppression, as it is the case in the modern world, as it was the case in 1968, when the text was written. The contemporary moment is different, and the forms of oppression have changed in comparison to the past, they have become less sophisticated and more direct and obvious, but this work is as relevant and applicable as it was back then, regardless of a different context and social changes.

Lolić agreed that we are living in a dystopian, authoritarian society, which is why we need more direct methods of staging this text. He added that he tried to adapt this radical and utterly demanding text to the audience, to make it more comprehensible and acceptable, and that he wanted the audience to identify with Kaspar, he wanted his character to stir emotions. In that regard, the performance is not a political pamphlet, although the text is very politicized and carries such message, but their intention was not to make one singular interpretation, but to provoke various ones.

Since this text reflects current social issues although it was written almost half a century ago, the audience asked the authors if they see it globally or locally. Miloš Lolić answered that he sees this situation not only in radically oppressive societies, but that it exists everywhere, that dystopia and oppression are our reality globally speaking. Therefore, the box on stage in which Kaspar is, is not only symbolic but represents our current state - we are closed and isolated, trapped.

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