KOSOVO THEATRE REVIEWS
The city and the city
In Five Seasons: An Enemy of the People, Oda Theater
The stories I’ve heard as a child were not just fairy-tales. These stories, that arose from love and in the midst of ruins, speak of a reality: the reality of post-war Kosovo.
In Jeton Neziraj's play, the lord of construction, Meti, is initially presented as someone who suffered during the war, but he has a mission to build and reconstruct: ostensibly in the name of development.
The Architect (played by Armend Smajli) also deals with the urban plans of the city; he has a love for his city, but he needs to deal with the legalities as well. The Architect works diligently for a city which is being ravaged by construction.
A Journalist asks him for an interview about his plan, but the Architect refuses to do so without completing the plan he has started. Then comes the Union Leader who informs us about the death of a construction worker and asks the Architect to do something for them, while the Architect tells the Journalist to introduce this topic on television and the Journalist invites the Union Leader to speak.
The Union Leader's only criticism of the devastated city is based on the fact that he was once a patriot, and that construction materials were coming from Serbia, from those who burned our houses and our villages. The Architect calls for patience, because there is a hope that his plan will be approved by the Municipal Assembly.
To institutionalize the demolition of the city and to give colour to this issue, the UN administration appears in the form of a representative of the administration, Pierre, who organizes a party ostensibly to celebrate the successes of the city.
After this party, there are some quarrels about construction, but the businessman's reasoning is that those constructions will be stopped and now a plan will be worked on, to create the "City of the Sun" and that all other plans can stop. So Pierre suggests he can stop all the evil in this city, but he is also an accomplice with the heads of the mafia, who are ruining the city in order to raise their capital.
The Architect's daughter (played by Verona Koxha) has been hired by the UN as a translator and is being offered an opportunity by Pierre to go abroad, to France. She suffers from epilepsy and the anxiety of abandoning her father, but Pierre insists that she takes the job and vows to help them through the French ambassador.
The voice of the Lord of Construction murmurs through the city at night, rejoicing in the sleep of the citizens and the darkness because in this way he can build his multi-storey buildings. In Pierre's office, Meti talks to him about the misfortunes of the people and mentions the war. Pierre hates this word; he closes his ears and will not hear about these sufferings, and so he fulfils the role of almost every UN administrator in Kosovo.
In the second season of Neziraj's play, things take an ironic turn as the discussion of the urban plan and the voting have been removed from the agenda. There is a neo-colonial logic to the Administrator, who deletes things from the agenda and keeps his eyes closed in front of regular urban plans for the city, but his open eyes on the mafia who constantly build without any order and ethics. It is a familiar logic, one that has not stopped since the post-war period in Kosovo and has often been supported from above, when we were in the protectorate and in government, as now.
At a meeting in the office of the Union Leader, the Architect's daughter enters and gives the father a letter in which she has received a threat. Pierre has informed the daughter to tell the father that he is not the only one being threatened, his daughter is too.
The office is talking about organizing a revolt, a protest of workers, and for this the Union Leader has big promises. He says that he will bring together about 10,000 (or maybe at least 100 people). But, these are all empty words and the Architect remains stoic in his attitudes to save the city.
He dreams that his daughter is being raped and runs to save her, but this is a result of his subconscious and his fear of threats that are constantly blurred by the mafia. He does not give up; he fights even in his dreams. He is a true dreamer.
On the TV show, the Architect calls the UN, swindlers, mobsters and construction mafias, gangsters who are eating the city, and he calls the people who work for them mercenaries. He also raises the dilemma of what is the difference between the mafia and the UN, and says with a laugh that the mafia is better organized than the UN.
When the show airs, it turns out that the interview with the Architect has been deleted and the Union Leader and Meti are working together. Everyone is turning against the Architect, perhaps because he alone had proposals and concrete work and ideas for the city, the others had empty words and played the role of agitator just to discover his plan.
At night on the street, the architect is attacked. Smajli plays the role so well you can feel his passion, his love for the city. The Architect has connected his life with his city, and as a result he is killed by the mafia: the master of construction. In the last moments of his life, he asks "why do you want to kill me"? while Smajli's eyes convey the full spark of his ideals and love for the city. And the lord of constructions answers: because you have become the enemy of the development of this city.
The play's ironical climax sees Pierre announce to the Architect's daughter two pieces of news, good and bad. Koxha's expresses her pain so well that in this scene it seems that a part of her body is resting with her father, and it is not too late for the scholarship she has won. Her eyes reflect this endless pain as she faints.
But no, this is not the end. The final irony is when the killers and instigators inaugurate the 'Architect's Way', a street formerly known as the 'French Revolution'.
The Architect's daughter makes her way to the airport, but still has questions for herself. Her father's murder leaves scars. She says that every autumn someone leaves and that she should have done the same, but now it is too late to leave, but not too late to stay and understand more about her father's murder. Here Pierre is embarrassed and starts talking defensively about how we internationals brought you freedom and you were waiting for us with flowers.
The Architect's daughter had to stay to understand more the truth of this city and if she left she would never find out.
The play's fifth and final scene - or season - connects the subconscious mind of the Architect's daughter with her father. When the Architect, in the middle of her dream, asks her `"are you happy?" `She answers hesitantly because she no longer even knows what she is; there are many people around her but she feels lonely.
In Neziraj's drama we are presented not only with the absence of the father, but of the man, a man with dreamless dreams, who had decided to open his eyes to his daughter and his community. To imagine something better than dust, concrete and a waste of time, a system run by rotten people with rotten ideas. And when the rot spreads it led the best people of the city to be declared 'Enemies of the People,' and only after their murder to be declared heroes, with streets named after them, living on in myth. Traces of the beauty of a place are usually engraved only on street names and in the vivid traces hidden beneath the constructions.
I shared the sense of disgust that permeates the play and I empathised with the Architect, with his loneliness during this process.
The play also introduces the idea of the eye as an organ through which art sculpts our individual instincts. This is the privilege of some wise people, and we are desperately searching for them.
As the crazy craving for making money becomes a goal in itself, it has undoubtedly weakened people’s capacity to understand the deepest potentials of life. And so as Bauhaus teaches us, the Architect displays a vision where he learns the special language of form in order to be able to give visual expression to his ideas. He conducts intensive studies in order to rediscover the grammar of design, in order to equip the spectator with objective knowledge of optical facts such as proportion, optical illusions and colours. He constantly informs us that art is a product of human desire, that it transcends the boundaries of logic and reason. It is an area of common interest for us all, like beauty which is an essential requirement of civilization and not simply multi-storey design.
As his eyes after death are directed even more powerfully towards the public and after he is declared an ``enemy`` of development and the people, he tells us the opposite: we must fight for development, for our ideals.
As in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche's On War and Warriors, he says that our highest ideal should be left to command us and that man is something to be overcome, and the love of life should be the love of your highest hope. In Neziraj's In Five Seasons, this is love - and hope - for the city.
Author: Jeton Neziraj//Director: Blerta Neziraj//Cast: Egzona Ademi, Shpetim Selmani, Afrim Mucaj, Verona Koxha, Kushtrim Qerimi and Armend Smajli
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Kosovo Theatre Reviews
Reviews and creative responses to theatre productions in Kosovo