In a journalistic context, if one uses a complicated methodology of analysis of terms, processes, structures, such is the comparative, it is always needed to precisely draw the path of reference. When one makes an analysis of an art form, particularly multi-faceted, interdisciplinary art form like the theater, then the act becomes even more complicated and puts additional responsibility on the shoulders of the analyst. The following text will try to create unpretentious viewpoint towards two, more or less different, universes: the shows that recently draw great attention of the public – “Candide in Wonderland” and “Proud Flesh”, both produced by the Dramski theatre.
These two projects seem quite different, and use completely different approach to come to the final product. First and foremost difference is in the kinds of texts they use: the first is more than 20 years old – “Proud Flesh” by Goran Stefanovski, and the second is quite new and contemporary – “Candide in Wonderland” by Venko Andonovski.
Even at this early stage in the process of analysis, the starting point of proving their (conditional) uniqueness might be recognized. The action of Stefanovski’s “Proud Flesh” takes place in Skopje, during World War II, but its point, as its author would stress, functions unbelievably well today, while the “New World Order” is being made at the end of the Twentieth Century. The context is very contemporary. Time – now. If there was ever a time when “Europe gave a fart about us”, today’s Balkan problems are even worse. Then Europe knew who we are (maybe). Even now, the “Old bleached lady” maybe knows that. Then, the idea was to prove that we are important and worthy to that cold, heartless, superficial, “capitalist”, ideologically impaired Europe. Now, the first thing we need to do is to persuade ourselves that it is true, by first answering the question “who are we?” Only after that question is answered, we can persuade Europe.
The main point of Venko Andonovski’s text, which refers to Voltaire’s “Candide,” fits well in this framework. “Candide in Wonderland” goes beyond and answers the question. It talks about our “unfree” or slavish substance. This text, in very clear, sharp, cruel, and ironical manner warns that courage should not be mistaken for a feeling of freedom. Where does the mixing of the need of freedom and courage come from? From the raised adrenaline! Its seems easier for humans to imagine that something is taken from them, and then use “courage” to get it back. When something like that happens, the combativeness, the fervor that makes the fighter go forward, towards his own freedom(!?), seem forgivable. In that way we reach one of the memorable lines from the text: “what in the West is called democracy, here means anarchy.”
Back to “Proud Flesh”. Back, because here the question of weather we need the West’s opinion about what and who we are is raised and answered. Stefanovski’s answer is the destroying of family values, which blows up the “house” (or the state), and is perpetrated by the “arrogant”, “unattainable”, cold Europe.
It is quite adventurous to compare the contemporary handwritings of the directors Aleksandar Popovski and Sasho Milenkovski. Even they have something in common. The common denominator is the directors’ “sketching” of the characters. Stefanovski’s text provides seriously built characters, while Popovski they appear only with their basic features, and the director and the actors’ own work create a specific context that makes them complete. Milenkovski produces a similar effect. But in reverse. Some of Andonovski’s characters are written as conditional “sketches”, and Milenkovski and his actors use the specific context to make their form and integration complete, and add content.
From now on the search becomes increasingly difficult. “Proud Flesh” has very definetely determined iconography, which is almost sterile in its precission. It is flowing through the interplay of light and shadow, the play between the gray (amorphous) and white (barren), the play between “clean” and “dirty”, which is in the end sprinkled with “ashes.” “Candide…” “screams” with deformities, “funny” compilations, which are quite pardonable.
In the end, what makes people think that these two extraordinary shows are similar is the energy. The energy of a new, present-day generation of actors, which can be felt by the audience in both productions.
Both “Proud Flesh” and “Candide…” make us ponder, make us look deeper in ourselves, and raise questions, strongly illustrating the present moment: the illogical in the logical or the forgetting of who we really are, us and the rest of the world.
Translated by: Filip Stojanovski