Interview with Bajrush Mjaku
Bajrush Mjaku (1952, Kačanik) graduated acting from the Higher School of Pedagogy in Priština in 1973 and since then he has been working for the Albanian Drama ensemble at the Theatre of Nationalities in Skopje (renamed Albanian Theatre since last year). Mjaku is one of the leading actors in Macedonia, playing in several theatres and independent projects in Macedonian as well; he has had performances in Germany, Croatia, Albania, Italy, Great Britain, Norway, Hungary, Latvia, Austria, France, Poland, Egypt, Russia, Turkey.. He won a number of awards: two for acting at MTF Vojdan Černodrinski (1985 and 1995), 13 Noemvri (1996), 11 Oktomvri (1998), Kliment Ohridski (1999); he has received four awards for his role of Poprishchin in the Diary of the Madman: for acting in Priština (and Ivan Popovski for directing the play), in Fier, Albania, at the festival in Kiev, and he returned from Oteševo as the Actor of Europe. His biography is about to be published by UNESCO (nobody has called him yet). The play Father (directed by Slobodan Unkovski) had two performances this summer at the Festival of Theatre-Space in Istanbul, Turkey. He is always somewhere outside; he was in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia in September; on 7-8 October he was at the Week of Albanian Culture in Paris playing Poprishchin again, and in the meantime he directed ZOO Story…
Being involved to show the way of work and high performance with your own example is your existence, it means going a bit before your time; have you discovered those that shall follow?
Yes, I work a lot. But I haven’t found partners for this co-operation yet; I’m still looking though. I keep on trying to gather people around myself whom I consider thirsty of work, and even thirstier of success. Unfortunately, I haven’t found such people so far, because everyone starts from his own personal interest, or most of them are locked in their own streets, convinced that only there they should be the main guys. I think the opposite: I have crossed my street long ago, I’ve gone far away, and this is for no other reasons but searching for life. What I do is for no other reason but because of my urge to search for life.
This life, torn between the Albanian Theatre, where you’ve been for 33 years, visits to other theaters, having your own independent projects, and working with the Children’s Theatre Centre in Skopje, isn’t it too hard for an actor and doesn’t it seem to you that you want too much?
In order to survive, you have to try them all to find what you want. I don’t want a lot, I want what is mine and what I think I’m capable of giving. I have found these two things in my independent project. It is no accident that these independent projects of mine are at a high level and they found their place; I also managed to interest other people with them. However, even those that I’ve made interested often in return say that I do it for myself only, whilst nobody thinks of the effort and the energy that I put in it. This is because the actors here are used to being satisfied with little, unfortunately; I, however, even after these results that I’ve achieved at various presentations and festival centers in the world think that I’m still at some beginning. Nevertheless, I know that I’ve found my way and I should continue to follow it.
#2You started this process intensively in 2001, when you prepared The Diary of the Madman. Does it mean that the previous 29 years on stage were in vain or do you consider them a preparation for what you are practicing today?
They were not in vain for sure, and they were certainly a preparation. Since 1979, with the plays then – Great Water by Čingo, A View from the Bridge by Miller, or Mice and Men, which were followed by I, Halil Garia, then Bundle and a number of others, such as Pahintika in a Dream, Rain in Uertomonto, Hamlet from Dolna Mrduša, Sauna, have been plays that made me think and be convinced that I can continue looking for what can not be found in an institution. Although we were much more organized at that time, we were more obedient because we lived in a different time, another system, where we also knew how to be scared – something that does not exist in this time of false democracy, where nobody is afraid of anybody, nobody asks for any accountability from anybody, and that is why we are in this situation. As Albanian Drama we managed to open the doors or participate at festivals at the level of the former Yugoslav federation in the 8-es: we went to MEES in Sarajevo for three years in a row with Bundle, Pahintika in a Dream and Rain in Uertomonto, or at Steriino pozorje with I, Halil Garia. Then the door opened and the theatre people from other former Yugoslav centers started thinking, finding out that there was such a theatre in Skopje, and it should also be present in other centers.
This theater, as well as others, is now in crisis; where shall the actors, who are the biggest victims of this crisis look for the guilt?
I know that actors are responsible too. But, one man is always to blame, and we know who is the man in the theatre – the one who manages it. Up to the 90-es there was some kind of order in the theatres: there was an artistic council that would not allow the manager to have free hands and do what he wants without being accountable for it. Since the 90-es nobody holds anybody accountable, and this is especially valid for the Albanian Theater, although we also had big successes at that time. For example, the BAAL play, which we performed on 23 stages and festivals around Europe or Richard III. However, since nobody in the country holds the man of the theater accountable, the theatre sinks.
Are you forgetting then that you were the first man of the Albanian Theatre in 2003-2004, then called the Albanian Drama at the Theater of Nationalities?
No, I haven’t forgotten. I was and I tried to do what I was convinced should be done, and I gave up. But, let us not forget that I managed to have 9 new plays staged in 15 months. At that time I also made Father as an independent project. So, in 15 months I managed ten theatre plays that was and still is impossible at the Albanian Theater.