25 Apr Beyond Stereotypes
“Burlesque about the Greek”
Andrej Hieng/Anja Suša, Madlenianum, stage “Bel Etage”
The play “Burlesque about the Greek” (1969), written by Andrej Hieng, deals with a day in the life of El Greco. Starting from a particular case study, the author explores general issues of intensive creative crises, and the artists’ relationships with their families, society, art, religion.
The performance directed by Anja Suša is small and very stylized. The stage is striking, bare and defined in white colour (stage designer Igor Vasiljev). The stage is divided in movable white canvasses, which makes it possible to have fast change of scenes and to alter the depth of stage; all of that resembles the expression typical of TV and film, editing and various shots/reverse shots, which stems from the fact that the text is, actually, written for television. The costumes are luxurious (by Maja Mirković), the music ethereal and striking, illustrative of the main protagonist’s emotional states (composed by Vladimir Pejković).
Nebojša Dugalić plays El Greco in an energetic manner, as a tragic man, but with traces of grotesque, which adds to the issue of the painter’s tragic character. The actor is inspired in his representation of El Greco’s various mental states: general scepticism towards people, rage towards his model, Stutterer, created in minimalistic and salient manner by Dušan Murić, and, finally, destructive despair. The small size of the space is also put in function so Dugalić occasionally plays among the audience, adding thus further emphasise to the already existing closeness. Anđelika Simić creates the character of El Greco’s wife Heronima, combining psychological realism and stylization. While talking to El Greco about marriage and their common future, about inevitable end of their love and the routine which will takes its place, Anđelika Simić keeps revolving in a brisk, mechanical manner. This mannerism expresses not only universal nature of the problem but also Heronima’s deeply rooted restlessness which thus becomes metaphorical.
Heronima’s aunts, stupid, hypocritical women, are played by Jelica Vučinić (Juana) and Elizabeta Đorevska (Ignes). Both are presented in an artificial manner – dressed in luxurious white dresses, without makeup on their white faces, they walk around in an illustrative, grotesque, doll-like fashion. This contributes to an exciting presentation of what they are all about – their limited minds and permeating evil makes them the monsters they are. This kind of stylistic approach in the making of characters is far more valuable and more complex than the conventional, realistic method. Ivan Tomić is very successful in his creation of frère Kargan, whom he plays in an even, almost impersonal manner, which is to be taken as his utter cynicism, especially when he preaches El Greco on the sinful idea of faith as pure individualism which implies a mercenary imperative of service towards the church and the community.
The performance “Burlesque about the Greek”, directed by Anja Suša, is strikingly directed, superbly acted, and filled with stimulating ideas on art, family relations, region and politics; moreover, it is far from a stereotype and yet not pretentious, and therefore different than the majority of the performances about lives of artists.
Published in Politika, 12th April, 2007