2019/2020 — Season 64
Daniil Harms

Art is a Cupboard

Directed by: Ivan Peternelj
Co-production: Art Association AVGUS and Mladinsko Theatre
Première: 6. 9. 2019
Cast
Credits
  • Translation: Drago Bajt
  • Text Selection: Ivan Peternelj
  • Dramaturgy: Jana Pavlič
  • Costume design: Slavica Janošević
  • Language consultant: Mateja Dermelj
  • Lighting design: Matjaž Brišar
  • Make-up artist: Nathalie Horvat
  • Production management: Barbara Hribar
  • Stage manager: Gašper Tesner

Special thanks to Drago Bajt and Primož Čučnik (LUD Šerpa)

Description

Why Harms today? The global world is reaching the dizzying heights of human stupidity, nonsense and ethical decay. But the worst is the numbness that is becoming something perfectly ordinary and it seems inevitable. The decay of values is a given and the banality of our days has become a habit. The foundation of the contemporary world is absurd. And Harms is one of the first absurdists. The absurd in Harms’s literature speaks of an unclear and undetermined fear that threatens everyday life from the background, of an existential threat and metaphysical horror, which we can also observe in his private notes. The performance stems from Harms’s unpredictable world, which addresses us in a poetic language on the border between the tragic and the comic. It dives into the poetry that is at the same time a children’s play and a play of fantasy in a vertiginous world of dream images and surreal scenes, coated with unusual existential sadness.

In the media

Breaking the prism of the gaze, twisting the meanings, the absurd, the grotesque, and the elements of clown and variety theatre in the texts that Ivan Peternelj has selected offered the actors a wide field to research and create acting masterpieces, which then ran through Harms’s short (and shorter) stories. This staging, so poetic and clean, could easily slide into a tragedy. Oscillating between wit and the constant feeling of anxiety due to unpredictable external circumstances in Harms’s works, a dense fabric of directorial, acting, as well as musical language (Polona Janežič) appears, which together with the thought flow (which reflects precise decisions and definitions of individual thematic segments) create genuine theatre fun. This fun spans between pleasure that is not light-hearted, but, with sifting through the meanings comes to the spectator unburdened with ratio through the sensual presence of the actors […].

A warehouse as a depository presumes the obscurity of Harms’s thought and writing, his salient artistic posture, which turned the aesthetic standards upside down so that the world could recognise its true face in chaos and absurdity. The back side of the world is lunatic, fragmented, senseless and utopian; it escalates the comic into the tragic, and sooner or later reverses that, too. […] The quartet of performers (Daša Doberšek, Janja Majzelj, Blaž Šef and Matija Vastl) may remain fragmented when it comes to individual aspects; they swap roles abruptly, play through the scenography and change the register of speech, but this orderly chaos at the same time functions as a very organised unit that builds its unity on the basis that everybody in it is different. […] The comically absurd gestures reveal the impoverished society of the time, ideological clashes and the author’s brutal everyday life, all disguised as a grotesque sketch of personal relationships that intentionally leads us around the bend to the criticism of the system.

The spatial setting of the production already cleverly encapsulates the thinking that absurdism is a literary phenomenon from the early 20th century […]. The scenography thus has, in line with Harms’s original ideas about theatre, in which objects, scenography, lighting also carry content (the idea of distancing from drama text as a basis for staging) … the gravitas in Peternelj’s staging as well; it draws attention to the historicity of the absurd and at the same time of its permanent presence. The scenes that are not (necessarily) linked together in action (Harms’s literary world is half-nonsense and it moves away from a linear narrative), are organised with convincing dramaturgy and directing; the production flows well, it is performed in accordance with the 'absurdist manner', at the same time catches the simultaneous humour and tragedy, with is the inherent base of the absurd; the atmosphere, which remains strong, is supported by the music harmony, which emphasises the comical situations with a certain 'retro' scary tone.

The directing uses the grotesque to its full potential, and at times leans on the comic; all four actors, historical and eclectically costumed, that is, some kind of dusty and grotesque stage apparitions, fully flex their expression tools. […] The highlights of the production are thus the parts in which the stage actions blow up among flinging lines and give us wild, intense actions of all four performers; it is then that a chthonic, unbridled and wild energy emerges from underneath Harms’s script that eschews sense, while other parts lead us to the parody of the Slavic fairy tale tradition. Peternelj’s directing makes good use of the two pillars, hiding performers behind them like behind a puppet theatre screen, from where they then intervene in the events onstage.  Because of the irrepressible and luddist acting energy, because of the witty and elaborately precise grimaces and modes of speaking, because of the playfulness of the performing team Art is a Wardrobe is a witty, intense and at the same time decent reconstruction theatre event.

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