KOSOVO THEATRE REVIEWS
Photo credit: Atdhe Mulla
Audience by Vaclav Havel, Theater Oda
To think that time passes but so much remains the same is mind-blowing, right? The fact that a work of art, no matter how old, can be revived and put on stage and still make you feel the same as the first audience that witnessed it, is just… wow!
I mean, Vaclav Havel wrote his play Audience in 1975, written to serve as a mirror of, or even a backlash against, the communist regime that existed in his country at the time. And to think, today, 45 years later, we still feel the need to put on such a play within the theatre scene of my own “democratic” country is just sad.
Havel's play depicts a suffocating bureaucratic system that not only doesn’t contribute to the artistic wellbeing of its own country but is destined to prevent its progress, unless it under agreed conditions of course.
This adaptation by Jeton Neziraj shows two men on opposite poles; a theatre director, trying to prepare a show for the premiere that’s supposed to be held in a couple of days and a man working for the system who has come to investigate seemingly baseless charges that turn out to be legitimate albeit absurd. The plot unravels itself in meaningless dialogues (that serve to make us bored) eventually reaching a point that says: What do you know? The truth is boring indeed!
There is no conflict in this play. There is no special place to which the characters are trying to get. The play takes the form of a serious talk (with not such serious acting) about the serious problems of our governing system that sometimes intentionally makes space for a few little jokes just to keep us focused.
There is a third character, but we never see her. The actress Rozi is an invisible character who from time to time takes the focus away from the other characters with her strange noises. I believe she is there to remind us that it’s a play we are watching. We can laugh a little, we can enjoy it. But she is also there to remind us what a key role in the decision-making of the bureaucratic world is played by the “female erotica” – element.
To my mind, the whole point of this play is to allow us to understand the sad reality in which we exist. We need to see the dirty agreements that are constantly being made behind closed doors, even if it means contaminating the stage with such horrific truths. In fact, if it has come to this, than I am supportive of putting on stage plays with such intentions.
Dukagjin Podrimaj plays the Theatre Director and Shpëtim Selmani plays the role of the bureaucratic guy. The personification of the director was executed perfectly by Podrimaj, making me feel each gram of his frustration, anger, tiredness, and hopelessness. He justified each and every word and action made by his character, to the point that the play felt a bit one-sided.
Though Podrimaj convinces completely as the Director, alongside him Selmani is less persuasive as the Inspector. Or maybe it’s just me not remembering how bureaucratic types are around here, and Selmani is indeed doing the best to paint a portrait of such not-serious, grotesque and common guys like the one around here, in Kosovo.
Watching this play feels like sitting in your favorite café. You find a good chair in a beautiful spot and your favorite waiter comes to take your order. You tell him that you trust his choice and with a very excited face he promises you the best drink, with all-natural ingredients. He disappears only to come back with a beautifully decorated cup and he tells you that it’s something original that he’s been working on these last few days. He assures you that it’s very delicious and you trust him just like all the other times when he proved it to you. But then, suddenly the boss shows up and he takes your drink, doesn’t let you try it, while coming to the conclusion that this is not what you ever wanted! And then he makes the waiter bring you a whole different ugly-tasting drink that contains “more than natural ingredients” that according to him are supposed to satisfy you. And what is left for you to do if things are going to work this way? To never come back there!
This does not mean that I have come to the same conclusion as in the previous paragraph. It just means that, like a whole bunch of people in this country, we will soon get tired of drinking ugly-tasting drinks and we will rise to say no! No to bad theatre. No to bad governments. No to bad actors. Yes: to new opportunities, even if that creates more of everything I have mentioned. We are just going to have to keep on fighting.
Author: Jeton Neziraj//Director: Agon Myftari//Cast: Dukagjin Podrimaj, Shpëtim Selmani