The Extraordinary Season
2021/2022 — Season 66
Based on motives of Petronius's Satyricon

Trimalchio's Dinner

Directed by: Bojana Lazić
Première: 27. 12. 2021
Credits
  • Text adaptation and dramaturgy: Slobodan Obradović
  • Set design: Zorana Petrov
  • Costume design: Maja Mirković
  • Music: Vladimir Pejković
  • Choreography: Damjan Kecojević
  • Speech advisor: Mateja Dermelj
  • Translation: Sonja Dolžan
  • Lighting design: Bojana Lazić, Zorana Petrov
  • Sound design: Silvo Zupančič
  • Make-up artist: Nathalie Horvat
  • Stage manager: Liam Hlede

Additional text devised by the ensemble.

Description

Trimalchio's Dinner is the most notorious and the longest preserved part of the ancient novel Satyricon, said to be written by Titus (Gaius) Petronius, the arbiter elegantiarum at emperor Nero’s court. The Satyricon is a compelling, witty and obscene satire. It takes place in the Southern Italy in the 1st century AD; a time when morality is in decline, while crime takes centre stage. It is to be expected as Nero is occupying the throne. In Trimalchio's dinner a new fat cat, who was a slave until yesterday, holds a feast. It is a lavish blowout that lasts for days. The guests discuss how there is scarcely any flour or bread in the town, while indulging in honey wine and bathing in exotic fragrance oils. Everything you could wish for is right there. From wine to pork, from the most honest guests to the most dishonest critics. From random passers-by, who are only good for a fuck, to quasi-visitors, quasi-intellectuals, quasi-poets, quasi-speakers, quasi-philosophers, quasi-artists … We too are a quasi-civilisation. We have quasi-heroes. We have quasi-love. We have quasi-empathy and quasi-friends. We have, to this day, only vice. There is camaraderie, misfortune, and distastefulness, which is what we have today. So how can you explain to some “important” host, this Trimalchio – a billionaire and a swine, in a time when everything is wrong, that he is indeed a swine? There is nothing to explain here. We allowed this to happen, so, dear gentlemen, let us devour this shit and lick our fingers with dignity.

In the media

An excerpt from an antique play, a grotesque satire in which Petronius describes a ceremonial, decadent meal hosted by Trimalchio, a liberated slave to whom his former owner had left all his wealth, is used by the director as a means to consider the 'making of' contemporary theatre. Throughout the piece, she maintains a theatre-insider outlook, although there are a number of diverse allusions to the current outside world. The play is undoubtedly marked by the noble mentality and tradition of Belgrade comic theatre and drama, which were admired by the Yugoslav generations in Slovenia.
[...] There is a transition between the antique parvenu and the present-day director. The original text has been complemented with acting improvisations and interventions. In the minimalist set, the majority of which is taken up by all kinds of instruments (including a didgeridoo highlighting the grotesqueness of the global nature), the actors perform post-drama scenes, fictional characters and a self-referential comedy to create a new play.

A wonderful performance by a cast of actors who co-create the text! The staging offers an interesting exploration of the ways to enact and reinterpret the antique classics. As various poles are brought together artfully, the piece presents us with an expressively topical and superior image of the current theatre scene, politics, and society.

Throughout, the play maintains a mocking stance towards the person in the position of power. For who could take this director seriously, as she seeks a girl's emancipation through objectification in Lepa Anka, or the glutton who fidgets clumsily on the mattress to the accompaniment of unjustified eulogies? This is how the double face of repression exposes itself, the collapse of its absolute power being offered simply by us no longer taking it seriously.

The seemingly innocent event of questioning the director’s decision grows into an act of rebellion and the stage becomes a playground for revealing the relationships between the creative team and showing how manipulation can be a modus operandi when you no longer have tigers to feed.
The two parts of the performance are connected by a conceptually complete design by Zorana Petrov. It resembles an updated version of an aristocratic apartment and at the same time it is a (humorous) reference to 'minimalistic modern' scenography. […]
Along with the performers, the audience also reclined comfortably in their seats and laughed at the pretentious directors, oversensitive actresses, disengaged actors, egocentrics all (not like us).

Exploring the concept of manipulation and reactions to it, the first and second parts of the production come together into a powerful whole that deals with the relationship between manipulators and the manipulated. The piece captures and examines this psychological subversion […] from various angles, creating a forceful synthesis of relations that range from deliberation on classical and contemporary theatre to the relationship between the ruling and subordinate social classes. […] The production raises intriguing questions about how to stage and reinterpret Greek and Roman classics. Artfully combining the opposing ends of the spectrum, it emerges as an outstanding and highly relevant image of today’s theatre scene, politics and society.

The excesses in Trimalchio's Dinner indicate the possibilities that arise when dealing with theatrical trifles, particularly with the functions of those involved and exposed on stage, or their relegation to the roles of director, actor or choreographer. The addition of (surreal) humorous elements (stylistically reminiscent of some legendary jokes from Belgrade theatre productions and films) derails the course of the narrative (‘action’), twisting it in entirely new ways. This derailment is the crucial feature of the piece, turning the story of a bacchanalia controlled by a dictator (which, in fact, contradicts what a bacchanalia really is) into a sketch of a schizophrenic aggregate consisting of the production itself (as a cultural product) and the profiles of its participants (as personalities). The twist allows the show to expose the psychedelic flashes that psychology (as a discipline founded on reason) cannot discipline. […] Trimalchio's Dinner attempts to overcome the alienation reflected in both theatre babble and the obsession with functions (including the perception of the audience as one in a series of functions). Anyone present within its context can feel it succeeding in its intention. It feels good to be part of an endeavour that, more than on stage, bears fruit in one's (individual) psychedelic, in the dimensions of unconditional, inalienable freedom.

In the two acts, which, although separated by a sharp incision, are mirror images of each other in many ways, Lazić juxtaposes ancient Roman kakistocracy with the process of staging a play. […] Both parts also articulate a vision of alternatives to autocratically organised communities. At some point, both authorities disappear off the stage: Trimalchio to take a dump and the director to sulk backstage. This is when the guests and the actors, suddenly all equal, lose their inhibitions and finally engage in honest communication. While this may lead to conflict or blissful harmony, both options are cathartic.

Gold & white costumes are combined with a minimalistic set design where a large part of the stage is occupied by musical instruments. When actors can’t understand or don’t agree with the director’s demands or interpretations, this causes friction and comical conflicts, though the director always has her way. Trimalchio’s Dinner is a self-referential comedy and a good example of theatre within theatre […].

The clarity in content is complemented by refinement in form. […] Like guests at the dinner, the cast can only truly loosen up when the authority figure leaves. It is only in the absence of control that true freedom is born.

Guest performances

  • Days of Comedy, Celje, Slovenia, 21 March 2022
Awards

  • Duša Počkaj Award bestowed by ZDUS (SADA) to Vito Weis for his creations in the last two years, among them also for his role in the performance Trimalchio's Dinner
Press downloads
THANK YOU

Maja Kurtz Padiwyack, Jure Čerin, Marko Aleksić, Hedvika Škof, Iva Hana Bogataj, Miro Bernjak, Luka Smrtnik, Danilo Marusig, Carmen Frfole, Danielej Nikolovski, Stojan Vencl, Cveta Čekić, Srna Tunić, Luca Peikozzi, Demi Moushn