In the plays Tango, by S. Mrożek, The Grand Brilliant Waltz by D. Jančar and Unrest in the retirement house by V. Andonovski
When the drama The Grand Brilliant Waltz first appeared, the question of its similarity to Mrożek’s Tango was inevitable. Although the similarities are not too obvious, because Janchar’s drama has a different structure for different characters and contexts, still, the impression of their similarity remains. In Macedonian contemporary literature, the text of Venko Andonovski, Unrest in the retirement house appeared, which can also be related to the above mentioned texts.
The similarity of the three texts occurs on the level of their deep structure, which shows equivalence of the drama functions.
Tango by Mrożek, written 1965, already deserves the attribute masterpiece of the Polish author. It is a play that marks the avant-garde drama. In the time of its appearance, it was classified as tragic farce, (M. Esslin: On the other side of the absurdity)1F, but if we look from today’s perspective, Tango may as well be called typical postmodern piece, rich with auto-referential and meta– textual commentaries of the contemporary state of the drama and the theatre. Hence, it is not accidental that it inspires the younger writers as well, who consider it a reference point for their observations of the government, the revolt against it, and ultimately, the meaning of that act. The similarity of the texts can be observed through several characteristic situations.
A. Initial situation: the place of act
1. In Tango the place of act is a civil salon, which is in a state of total disintegration and chaos. This state is illustrated with abundance of furniture pieces that are useless (a child’s crib which used to belong to Arthur, who is now 25; a catafalque of an old man, who has died some 20 years ago, and many other unnecessary and dilapidated objects). The situation in the salon is a reflection of the family situation– its members are disorganized, or, to put it more precisely: their relations are in a real anarchy (Stomil is wearing pajamas all day, there’s no food, everyone eats whenever they feel like and someone is playing cards all the time)– in other words, no one respects the principles of a family and organized life.
2. In the Grand Brilliant Waltz, the action takes place in a specialized institution for rehabilitation, which operates under the motto “the freedom liberates”, or to put it non-metaphorically, a sanatorium. At the beginning of the play, the place is described as follows: “The central area of the institution is a large study room. This is probably a hall which was a part of what used to be a large castle, with remnants of wallpaper and drawings on its walls and pieces of furniture, with characteristic alcoves and windows. Because it is now used for different purpose, there are purely white and green parts, and then modern, though underused pieces of furniture, tables and chairs. (…) The living room gradually enlarges from scene to scene, eventually turning into a large hall for dancing (ballroom)2F. The disorganization is another indicator for the chaos of the space. If we exclude the details that define the hospital as a concrete space, we can say that it is a reflection of the state, which, terrified for its order, establishes institutions of this kind, which will protect it from the inappropriate behavior of its people. As Andrej Inkret observes “the institute the freedom liberates, which is a space of isolation, therapy and punishment, is given as the sole/unique inter-human space, where a drama may easily happen; but as an institution, it represents a symbolic model of the life in society in general.”3F
At the end, the nurse Vologja affirms that no one is from outside, and that everyone is “in”.
3. In the Andonovski’s drama, the action takes place in a retirement house. The situation in the house may be described as chaotic: after the mysterious death of the house’s manager, food is missing, which provokes unrest, discontent and sense of insecurity of the people of the retirement house.
What is common for all three plays is the setting of the scene before the culmination: the anarchy, the instability of the relationships.
1. М. Esslin: Au dela de l’absurde. Paris, Ed. Buchet – Chastel, 1970.
2. Drago Jančar: Veliki briljantni valček. Ljubljana, Cankarjeva založba, 1985, 7.
3. Andrej Inkret: Drama o norosti in slobodi. In: D. Jančar: Veliki briljantni valček, Op. cit., 89.