Damned Be the Traitor of His Homeland!
- Dramaturgy: Borut Šeparović, Tomaž Toporišič
- Set and costume design, music selection: Oliver Frljić
- Assistant director and movement consultant: Matjaž Farič
- Sound design: Silvo Zupančič
- Lighting design: Oliver Frljić, Tomaž Štrucl
- Production management: Tina Malič
- Stage manager: Urša Červ / Liam Hlede
In this performance, Oliver Frljić deals with love and hate towards theatre; the framework for his questioning of the limits of artistic and civic freedom are the fragments of a story about the disintegration of Yugoslavia, a symbolic space inhabited by actors full of dilemmas we all encounter, but to which we often willingly turn a blind eye. The universality of the play was confirmed during very successful performances at prominent festivals. Likewise, as the critic of the French Le Figaro wrote, everybody agrees that “the performance hits hard, and intentionally. [...] These actors [...] believe in the power of theatre that connects, enlightens, acts. In our spoilt society where stages are saturated with ‘cultural products’ with no flavour, this is very good news.”
Oliver Frljić reveals the deviations of the love for the homeland, which can only lead to hatred for the other. During the catwalk of flags, which turns into an armed parade, into heated discussions about national belonging, between moral dilemmas, which wars initiate, the actors deliver well aimed insults about our relationship with the American Indians, the oil exploitation, the uncontrolled francophone genocide, the cult of Celine Dion into the audience of “Quebecan pussies”. The show, which is up front and provocative, is facing each audience with their own political behavior worthy of scorn and by that forming a context making us doubt and appealing to action – or at least to a certain awareness.
The systematic subverting of the nationalist discourse is penetrative: the group shows how words of national pride lead directly into a language of war by using simple twists. They perform a powerful deconstruction of patriotic lyricism and with an ardent clarity show how the love for the homeland is much too often only a reflection of the hatred for the other. When this mechanics is turned against the “Quebecan pussies” in a phenomenally impetuous monologue, the display of war logic is at its sharpest. But the actors of Oliver Frljić never drift into Manicheism and invite us in the end to look at the conflicts and disputes happening among their troupe.
The 2012 edition of Kunstenfestivaldesarts has started strongly with a striking installation by Brett Bailey on the horrors of colonialism and its consequences today and a challenging show by Oliver Frljic and a Mladinsko Theatre. With them, the art is in its place, it asks questions, it opens breaches in our assumptions, it challenges us, changes our persoectives, it sheds some light on the darkness that surrounds us. And this is very good.
Oliver Frljic talks about the wars that have bloodied the former Yugoslavia. He does it with the passion, the earthiness, the shamelessness of Jan Fabre. [...] Oliver Frljic is generous, sometimes messy, but it shakes us too when, in an anthological scene, an actor apostrophes and insults the audience by making fun of our Belgian quarrels with 'the Flemish, the language that is the ugliest,' 'Walloons so lazy' and 'the public of the festival which vibrates only for Platel and Vandekeybus'. This monologue is a provocative and successful attempt to demonstrate that there is not only Zagreb or Belgrade that we can gut the name of this horror that is called nationalism.
A really powerful show, which refers us to our civil wars and wickedness. Just great! [...] The group is mixing all performative codes with communicative good vibe and makes use of interactive theatre laws: offending the audience (old classic, but in this case extremely amusing), stripping down and settling the score with men, also at this point grotesquely trying to seduce the audience. With an incredible last part, which shows the unhealthy relationships and ambitions among the acting troupe. As another civil war, innate to any group of human beings, which is caught up in its intimate wish to prevail over the other: the civil war, which ends with a sharp cut, without death and grief.
Oliver Frljić, truthful to his reputation of the Balkan enfant terrible, is listing one provocation after another to show the levers of nationalism, which devastated former Yugoslavia. [...] But it’s not only about provocation, even though we were smiling at it. Frljić upgrades his discourse with autobiographic considerations and intricate moral issues. The show robs us of words and reaches deep at the same time. The violence is almost clownish, while at the same time deceitful. The nationalism is evasive and impossible to pin down to some so called local slaughter.
The performance Damned Te the Traitor of His Homeland! is fighting foremost against all forms of aggressive patriotism, which unnoticeably develops into nationalism. In short etudes a whole selection of means used by the so called homeland guards are presented [...]. All this is performed with unbelievable energy and some sort of unpredictable and scattered hatred that forms the impression of a pseudo patriotic discourse and enthralls the audience. The mixture of folk and popular songs from the eighties has the effect of blind infatuation with the own tradition without any kind of confirmation. [...] As witnesses to that [last] scene at the verge of life and theatre we can clearly observe, how dangerous a mechanism screwing springs of hatred is.
We witnessed truly transgressive theatre in one of the most interesting plays of the Dialog festival. The artistic provocation served an important goal – studying the idea of nationalism. And we were able to see that we were not only witnesses. [...] The staging presents not only an important voice in the discussion on nationalism (which is surely even more important in the Balkans, where not long ago ethnic cleansing led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people), but also a means of surpassing certain artistic boundaries. […] So much poison and hatred in a seemingly touching, rhythmic, musically speaking simply beautiful work – that is a true transgression. Ridiculing nationalism with the help of an overt parody seems much easier than escalation into disquiet, pathos; and if it makes us laugh, we laugh with a heavy heart. The elements of grotesque in the play were close to perfection. This kind of artistic effect is rare and requires truly exceptional courage.
Picturesquely speaking the virus that has recently been ravaging in theatres of the former Yugoslav space and whose name is Oliver Frljić is already well-known, however, it still raises temperature of the audience and everything around it. His latest play Damned be the traitor of his homeland!, performed in the Mladinsko Theatre in Ljubljana, talks about the collapse of Yugoslavia through the mouth of Slovenians, once again running a finger into the eye of political stereotypes in a venomously provocative way 20 years after the tragic events.
Above all, this is really a play about Responsibility, personal and collective, and it affects all those living in these places. If anyone claims otherwise, then they are lying or are – too young (there is no room for incomprehension here).
We have seen a true, committed, important, rude, political, post-dramatic, post-modern theatre, dealing with us and the time we are living in. This is live theatre that concerns us, it is a living matter of the modern artistic act. The question posed by the play is the question of all questions – the question of responsibility. It is also the common thread, linking all of Oliver Frljić's so far made plays – the attempt to assign responsibility to an individual, his present and his future.
It is not the historical event of the Yugoslav war that is at the heart of this powerful and brilliant play, in which the Yugoslav political theatre and its heroes are cynically mentioned, but the presence of the political problem today: the willingness for atrocities remains, you just have to press the right button. For the past year, the right in Slovenia has been preparing a psychological state in which all those frustrated will take the right to judge everyone that is different, privileged or designated as »perverse«. »Perverse« is a term used both in the case of an attack on the president as in the case of an attack on a lesbian couple in the neighbourhood. No one is safe from anything. In the historical cases that we know, the accusation of perversity has always served as an introduction to the purge of the enemies, then as a safe screen for a free implementation of the authority's perversity. Do we really want to go down the same road again? So hurry to the theater, which is once again political, exciting and educative. At the end of the play, you then once again exchange allied looks, refined by tears and laughter.
- Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin, Germany, 25 & 26 Oct 2018
- Festival Internacional Cervantino, Mexico, 18 & 19 Oct 2018
- Bazaar Festival, Prague, Czech Republic, 17 Mar 2017
- Powszechny Theatre, Warsaw, Poland, 22 Nov 2015
- dFeria, San Sebastián/Donostia, Spain, 12 Mar 2015
- Scêne Nationale du Sud-Aquitaine, Bayonne, France, 10 Mar 2015
- Mittelfest, Cividale, Italy, 19 Jul 2014
- Le Manifeste, Palais du Littoral / Grande-Synthe, France, 12 Jul 2014
- Sibfest, Sibiu, Romania, 7 Jun 2014
- Fabbrica Europa, Florence, Italy, 10 & 11 May 2014
- Transitions: 1. Balcans, Athens, Greece, 5 Mar 2014
- International Theatre Biennial of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, 12–15 Dec 2013
- Sens Interdits, Lyon, France, 23–25 Oct 2013
- Theatre dramatique nacional, Besançon, France, 1–4 Oct 2013
- Festival Almada, Lisbon, Portugal, 4 July 2013
- Matosinhos/Porto, Portugal, 29 Jun 2013
- Festival of Young russian Theatre, Omsk, Russia, 27 & 28 May 2013
- Horizon, Filature, Mulhouse, France, 13 & 14 May 2013
- Passages, Metz, France, 9–12 May 2013
- Exodos, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23 Mar 2013
- Lessing Days, Thalia Theater, Hamburg, Germany, 4 & 5 Feb 2013
- Novo mesto, Slovenia, 1 Feb 2013
- Automne en Normandie, Rouen, France, 28 Nov 2012
- Desiré Central Station, Subotica, Serbia, 25 Nov 2012
- Menų spaustuvė, Vilnius, Lithuania 18 & 19 Oct 2012
- Neue Stücke aus Europa, Wiesbaden, Germany, 22 & 23 Jun 2012
- Theaterformen, Braunschweig, Germany, 6–8 Jun 2012
- TransAmériques, Montreal, Canada, 31 May –2 Jun 2012
- Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels, Belgium, 4–6 & 8 May 2012
- Dialog, Wroclaw, Poland, 12 & 13 Oct 2011
- Bitef, Belgrade, Serbia, 18 Sep 2011
- Stage Festival, Helsinki, Finland, 23–25 Aug 2011
- Sterijino pozorje, Novi Sad, Serbia, 27 May 2011
- New Drama Festival, Bratislava, Slovakia, 21 May 2011
- Week of Slovenian Drama, Prešeren Theatre, Kranj, Slovenia, 30 Mar 2011
- Perforations Festival New York (Perforations Festival & La MaMa ETC), New York, USA, 17 Mar 2011
- MESS Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 24 Oct 2010
- Maribor Theatre Festival, Maribor, Slovenia, 20 Oct 2010
- MOT, Skopje, Macedonija, 26 Sep 2010
- Days of Satire, Zagreb, Croatia, 15 Jun 2010
- International small scenes theatre festival, Rijeka, Croatia, 10 May 2010
- Borštnik award for best young actor at the Maribor Theatre Festival 2010 to Uroš Kaurin
- Borštnik award for outstanding collective creation at the Maribor Theatre Festival 2010
- Župančič award 2011 to Primož Bezjak, among others also for his role in Damned Be the Traitor of His Homeland!
- award for for the courage in development of the genre of political theatre, International Festival of New Theatre, Omsk, Russia (2013)