KOSOVO THEATRE REVIEWS
Photo credit: Atdhe Mulla
Audience by Vaclav Havel, Theater Oda - another view
What would an Investigator want at the theatre?
You can find them everywhere. Especially in important positions. As administrative employees in the municipality, tired of looking at the clock to see when the working hours are ending. As principals of schools, gymnasiums and universities watching videos on Facebook inside those old brutalist-style brown offices that smell like cigarettes. As government employees who return emails 100 times with numerous miniscule requests for improvements to the documents that you send to them because they have nothing else to report to their superiors. (Ironically, of course, these emails contain a lot of spelling mistakes). They usually belong to a political party. They are 40-50 years old, in some cases even older. They're married. Some of them dream of cheating on their partners. Some of them even do. You usually have to go to them for a document. But it does not happen often that they come to you. Especially in the theatre.
In Audience by Vaclav Havel, the investigator in question has ben sent by his superiors at the police station to investigate a complaint by the director of a theatre.
The events of the play take place in the actors' dressing room, an old room with minimal facilities. The director of the theatre tells the investigator that they have called for funds many times to renovate the theatre, but no one cares because, according to them "up there", they have more important things to deal with than that.
An awkward conversation takes place where the inferiority and superiority of the two characters dance over the sounds of their words in a way that is clearly noticed by the audience. The inferiority of the theatre director and his fear reminds me of the main character in Franz Kafka's The Process since he does not know what they have accused him of and what will happen to his fate.
The investigator feels superior to the director in this because he knows that he has him in his hands, what with all these new laws and amendments and regulations, which if the investigator wanted (with his interpretation) he could use to send the director to prison immediately. The investigator also feels inferiority to the director's intellect and the work he does. The investigator understands deep down that he knows nothing. But knowing it and saying it out loud are two different things. Therefore, to fill this gap, he begins to show the director how he knows everything about the theatre. How he read Stanislavski's system, which according to him is the Qur'an or the Bible of the theatre. How he is not like other investigators, because he studies, analyzes and does in-depth research before taking a case and how he does not type with two fingers like his colleagues. On the other hand, the Theatre Director knows he has done nothing wrong. But he also grasps that this is not enough in this country and continues to be scared. He asks the investigator if he came because of the new ballet competition. The Inspector does not tell him and continues to hold him as a ‘hostage’ in this nerve-racking conversation.
Who is Rozi?
There is a third character, the actress Rozi, but the audience does not see her. We just hear her voice, often crying, laughing, singing and reciting. "She is an unpredictable actress," says the theatre director, which is why everyone loves her. Apparently, the investigator is obsessed with her. He gets excited when he finds out she is there, in the theatre. He exaggerates her appearance in front of the Theatre Director, considering her as an almost mythical creature. He knows some of the roles that she played. He praises her, but also objectifies her in the most vulgar form. Then he asks the director how he can meet her. What role will she play? What is she doing now? And many-many other questions. The Investigator also finds drugs in Rozi's cosmetics in the dressing room, but when he found out that they were hers, he doesn't take the issue further. He even seems to soften with the Theatre Director when she is mentioned. Rozi serves as a distraction. As a distraction from the conversation for the Director. And as a distraction from the boring nonsense of his life for the Investigator.
This dialogue must come to an end. The Director is in a hurry and can’t wait for it to be over. The Investigator goes to the bathroom to see Rozi on stage and tells the Director to write his own statement and then, only after that, he will tell him why he came here. The Director is confused. He starts to write, deletes, writes, deletes and repeats the same things again. He fears that his words will be misinterpreted and will be used as evidence that he is guilty. The investigator returns and tells him that Niku, an actor, has complained that the Director has violated the regulations and has discriminated against him because he is not giving him roles in the theatre. The Director explains that no director will work with him because he is incompetent and does not know how to act. Discussions continue. The investigator listens, closes the file. Now, they are talking about the Ballet competition. The investigator has a daughter and her dream was to always be part of the ballet. And he wants her to be accepted in this competition that was opened by the Director.
An a-ha moment!
The conclusion of the play is clear demonstration of how forced nepotism works, the hypocrisy it creates and how much pressure is put on the people who are trying to do something good for their country by forcing them to compromise their values. The way in which the actors Shpetim Selmani, who plays the arrogant, but inferior Investigator and Dukagjin Podrimaj, who plays the ‘good guy’ Director who is only trying to do his job, conveys their feelings, to us, the audience, is fascinating.
It was like the ugliest parts of realism were meeting the innocent parts of idealism. It felt like we were there, with them, in the dressing room, in complete silence, listening and waiting to see what will happen next, impatiently...
In this way I found Agon Myftari's performance of Jeton Neziraj's play to be truly provocative, intense and relatable. In one form or another it makes us reflect on the compromises we may have made, with or without our knowledge. You may ask, how do we get out of this situation? I think we all know the answer to that. This performance was just a reminder of ‘’how’'.
Author: Jeton Neziraj//Director: Agon Myftari//Cast: Dukagjin Podrimaj, Shpëtim Selmani