Having this in mind, we can conclude that the primary, that is, the framework drama and the play within a play in the drama – People’s Democratic Circus Sakeshvili, are united, as the real audience is united with the fictitious one. Such a situation raises an intriguing question about the very nature of the play-within-a-play and metadrama. Both means are characterized by the fact that the dramatic action consists of at least two layers and two modes of performativity. One of them should be the one that unites the characters in the drama into a compact whole; while the other would be a kind of departure from the framework of the primary drama, and in the case of a play within a play, another drama is set within the framework of the primary drama, after as a rule, a smaller drama, usually the one performed by characters on stage. In the case of the metadrama, it would be a departure from the framework of the primary drama and the characters’ awareness of being in the play, or some interaction with the audience that would show that the play is aware that it is being performed in a theater. This play cannot be strictly labeled as a mere metadrama, nor as a play within a play, but consists of elements of both. Vilčnik’s Circus does not contain all the constitutive elements of a play within a play, nor a meta drama, but at the same time, it surpasses them, in a way, with its totality.

People’s Democratic Circus “Sakeshvili” during the play often leaves the frame of the stage and creates a direct interaction with the audience, which is also noted in the didaskalia about the situation of the escaped scorpion: “Sakeshvili goes to the audience and looks for the Sakeshvili. He moves between the seats and looks at the floor, especially at the legs of ladies wearing skirts. Sakeshvili watches him carefully from the side. (…) Sakeshvili bends down, pats the floor with his hands, and pulls out the scorpion from under the feet of one of the ladies” (Vilčnik, 2016: 8). A similar mechanism is also visible in the didaskalia that describes the singing of the anthem of the Sakeshvili State: “They stand straight, stick out their chests and put their hands on their hearts. And they sing. Because it’s the national anthem, people stand up. If not, then they show them that they should” (Vilčnik, 2016: 8).

In the first example, there is physical entry into the audience, both fictitious and real, and in the second, the audience is directly invited to actively participate in the performance of the “Sakeshvili” circus. This type of interactivity enhances the collaborative effect between the audience and the performance because the audience can experience the drama more completely if the drama includes them and places them in a position to be an integral part of it. Just as in metadrama a character from the stage will address the real audience and invite them to interact, Sakeshvili also addresses the audience, however, the essential difference is that they do not directly address the real audience, but the implicit one who came to see the performance of their circus and to be part of that spectacle. This mechanism is very important because Sakeshvilis in their (in)direct address to the audience will be able to bring very strong critical messages to the viewer, through comic mechanisms, thus emphasizing and strengthening the subversive nature of this play. One of the key scenes to explore the metatheatrical elements in this play is the discussion between the two Sakeshvilis about the differences between the social and life system in their country compared to abroad, where they are currently touring as a traveling circus:

SAKESHVILI: And the circuses?

SAKESHVILI: And circuses are also for the audience.

SAKESHVILI: Well, ours are too.

SAKESHVILI: But there it is separate.


SAKESHVILI: The audience and the performance.

SAKESHVILI: How do you mean?

SAKESHVILI: Here everything is a show, but there it is not.

Sakeshvili is so surprised by this that he takes a deep breath and stares at the audience.

SAKESHVILI: Don’t say! Are you saying that all these people are here… (takes the entire audience with his gaze) of their own accord?

(Vilčnik 2016: 20–21)

In that scene, some of the key properties of the play’s critical aspect of totalitarian systems are highlighted. Namely, the two Sakeshvili discuss the key differences in the organization of society in their country and “our” country. In this way, the audience is actualized, because the characters speak directly about them, but social criticism with a parodic and ironic attitude is not the only significant thing about this scene. It also contains a distinct metatheatrical element, which can be interpreted as a hermeneutic key for interpreting the general ideas of this play.

In this case, it would be a replica that in “our world” the audience and the performance are separate, which is not the case with the People’s Democratic Republic of Sakeshvili. If this statement is interpreted from the point of view of metatheatre and parody, different information should be considered. If we accept the interpretation that the real audience at the time of the performance is really a part of the play, which has been achieved with numerous means of actualization, and if we accept that in the People’s Democratic Republic of Sakeshvili the spectators are inseparable from the play and are always a part of it, the conclusion is imposed that the real audience is now in the Republic of Sakeshvili. In other words, the metatheatrical devices that erase the clear boundaries between reality and fiction, as an active member of the play’s performance, include the audience, which is now considered from multiple points of reference. Also, the real audience is put in the position of an audience, that follows Sakeshvili’s crazy circus antics, but at the same time is drawn into the system of Sakeshvili’s Republic and eventually fully approximates the way the totalitarian system works.

In that place, the metatheatrical and critical aspects are condensed and united, and together they aim first to break the theatrical illusion, and then directly to confront the audience with the fact that the totalitarian Republic of Sakeshvili is not as far away as the audience thinks but is quite close. Thus, through the metatheatrical elements, the critical blade of this play is sharpened.

During the play, real elements of the theatrical performance are mentioned many times, such as scenography, props, props assistant, director, etc., which represents another metatheatrical element of this work. What’s more, during the performance, spaces are mentioned and used that are not traditionally part of a theater performance, but of the theater itself as an actual space:

SAKESHVILI: I thought we should start with Sakeshvili since we don’t have any costumes or props.

SAKESHVILI: I know, Sakeshvili, I know. We have no choice. Who could have predicted that Sakeshvili would suddenly snap? He looked so healthy yesterday.

SAKESHVILI: He defecated in the lobby.

SAKESHVILI: I know. He can do everything. He is very capable.

SAKESHVILI: Well, at least he didn’t do it on stage.

AuthorDarko Ilin
2023-10-01T11:58:51+00:00 September 9th, 2023|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 151|Comments Off on METATHEATRICAL ELEMENTS IN THE DRAMA PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC CIRCUS SAKESHVILI BY ROK VILČNIK