The French national theatre Comédie de Saint-Etienne prepared the opening night of the performance The Big Construction Site which took place three evenings in a row: on June 6, June 7, and June 8. This project created by Ivica Buljan is a unique occurrence. It consists of the staging of Snow White, The Sleeping Beauty, Rosamunde and Jackie from the cycle Dramas of Princesses and of the dramas Goodbye and Bambiland. This eight-hour long spectacle is built from theatre of words, burlesque, political activism, Vienna cabaret and performance.
The Big Construction Site of Elfriede Jelinek will be presented at Comédie de Saint-Etienne, at Théâtre Andrezieux and in Paris theatres Théâtre du Rond Point and Centre dramatique national de Montreuil. In the end of June, the cycle will be presented in Croatia within the festival Karantena in Dubrovnik and within Gorica Evenings at Velika Gorica, while in Slovenia it will be hosted by Mini teater in Ljubljana.
Elfriede Jelinek wrote Bambiland a few months after the beginning of the war in Iraqi. The title insinuates to an amusement park built in Požarevac by Marko Milošević, and to the Babilan magazine whose editor was Uday Hussein. The text is not spoken by drama characters but it is organised as a block or a spring whose sources are difficult to recognize. In her ludistic side text (stage instructions) Elfriede Jelinek indicates the inter-textual character of work, where the inspiration of Aeschylus' Persians assembles with Nietsche's philosophy, or most of all with different discourses – ideological, technological, logistic and media, especially those delivered by CNN in the first months of the Iraqi war.
Using heterogeneous material Jelinek creates her perhaps most personal drama text. In it, there is this unlucky collision of an antique army anticipating the defeat, and a modern superpower worshipping two gods – oil and television. The characters parading across Bambiland are Bush jr., Dick Cheney, trained dolphins, children in front of cameras, the Sun God and the Angel of History – all trapped within the maize of future; there are also weapon traders, yet the true heroes are the tanks and the most perfect missiles – some sophisticated military devices superior to mankind. The text stream pumps its material from the registers passing over from sublime to banal, from tragic to comic. As if the Vergil's wheel started madly to spin around in high speed. Everything in this bitter score is non-real, wild and sick, everything: from the humour of the Viennese cabaret to the American variety show scenes.
Drama of Princesses
Ella Besnaïou and Sylvain Delcourt
Two hundred years after Brothers Grimm Elfriede Jelinek confronts two characters from a fairytale: Snow White - white as talcum powder, red as ketchup, black as a night mare – and her Death in the shape of the Hunter, who did not kill her (as he was told to by her stepmother) but spared her life. What turn will story take this time? This cruel and gentle conflict of two friends, possible lovers and adversaries, ends quite sadly. From Chaplin to Pasolini, Bergman and Fellini, the burlesque was a privileged genre in the film and in the theatre. Today it is almost forgotten, yet in this performance it relives its new confirmation.
The Sleeping Beauty
Marielle Guerber and Philippe Tlokinski
She was foretold that she would experience eternal love from the Prince who would wake her up from her hundred-year long sleep with a kiss. And the Prince comes: handsome, young, fearless. Love at first sight happens. Between two kisses questions start to rise. In the middle of a passionate debate - leading to a war between the sexes and to a cultural shock - slowly a new couple is born. In the centre of this true sexual-political satire, the idea of a modern couple is placed, a couple that is the result of a consumer society. A healthy economy and a healthy family represent the basic levers of a beautiful and healthy fatherland. The performance has been conceived as a reality show.
Jeanne Vimal and Richard Pinto
Rosamunde is a character from Schubert's lost opera. The scarse vestiges say the story is about a true princess from Cyprus. Elfriede Jelinek made her a writer, a fundamentalist feminist and masochist, not very much different from her creator. The passion between her and Fulvio, her aggressive and vulnerable lover, blossoms up to extreme limits. The performance investigates the limits of corporality and love through beating and intimacy without limitations. In the echo one may recognise Godard and Hanek.
Tiphaine Rabaud Fournier
Jackie is a deconstruction of one of the greatest myths of the western society, the myths about Jackie Kennedy Onassis. The text combines biographic elements, a media discourse about the Kennedy’s, and the theory on clothes as Roland Barthes presented it in his essay on fashion. As for the model, Jackie is presented from three aspects: factual (a bourgeois person named Jacqueline Bouvier), a picture (Jackie photographed and Jackie as a fashion icon), and the textual Jackie (as the one presented by the international media). So, Jackie becomes a multilayer person, abandoning one role after another, yet she can never find her true identity.
Jelinek's simple and inquisitive question is: what would have Jackie talked about if she had talked for a long time; if we could hear what she talked to herself. In the end of the monologue we will know everything about her – and we will be the first in this experience.
Baptiste Guiton and Benoît Bregeault
In May 2000, after the Hitler's People's Party (FPÖ) came into the Austrian government, Jelinek wrote her sharp drama Goodbye: a non-compromise discourse settled by numerous characters from the Austrian political life, assembled together by their personification of power. Through quotations from Aeschylus' Orestea she exposes the transparent language of political propaganda even more.
In this political cabaret the image of Haider is joined by Berlusconi, Bush, Putin and Sarkozy, and the fact that the main character is played by two actors unequivocally reminds us of the two Polish politicians, the twin brothers Kaczynski. Nationalistic enthusiasm and populist perversion are dragging through folk dances, scenes from politicians' vacations, populist stage appearances, interviews, sadomasochistic sessions, pederasty, and sport competitions.
This performance smells of every fatherland in the world, of their dreams about territory and blood.
ELFRIEDE JELINEK was born in Mürzzuschlag (Austrian Steyermark) in 1946. Her mother was an Austrian catholic, a high-class bourgeois; her father (engineer and self-taught person) was a Czech Jew who came to Vienna from a modest yet educated milieu. Predestined by her mother to become a virtuosic musician, in 1950 the girl is admitted to the Catholic Institute of Virgin Mary of Sion in Vienna, where she starts learning ballet and French. When she is seven she starts her lessons of violin, piano and singing. From 1960 on, she studies organ and flute playing at Vienna Conservatory, later she studies also composition. In 1964 she starts her studies of teatrology and fine arts in Vienna. In 1971 she graduates in organ. She is active in student movements, and also later she often appears in her role of an engaged author. Already in the period of her studies she writes for literature magazines and has some interesting lyrical poems published; her radio drama When the Sun Sets for Me It Is already the End of a Working Day (Wenn die Sonne sinkt ist für mich schon Büroschluβ) was declared as the drama of the year (1974). In 1975 her novel The She-Lovers (Die Liebhaberinnen) was published. The author's direction turns to presenting the society and the relations between the sexes from the female perspective. The media however, due to her frequent appearances in the public give too much stress to the provocativity of her writing, so her brilliant style and the innovativity in her narrative and drama procedure are often unfairly kept in the background.
Elfriede Jelinek is not afraid to reach into most delicate topics. By interlacing different narrative and drama forms (fitting, collage, internal monologue) she creates an unusual style that is frequently very difficult to translate. The crown of her writing consists of the novels: The Piano Teacher (Die Klavierspielerin, 1983), Lust (Lust, 1983) and The Children of the Dead (Die Kinder den Toten, 1995). Beside the dramas staged in Slovenia What Happened after Nora Had Left Her Husband or The Pillars of the Society (Was gesach nachdem Nora ihrem Mann verlassen hatte oder die Stützen der Gesellschaften, 1977; SLG Celje 2005) and Drama of Princesses (PGK Kranj 2005), she wrote several excellent dramas from which some have to be mentioned: Clara S. (1982), Burgtheater (1986), Totenauberg (1992), Raststätte (Resting Site, 1997), Er nicht als er (He not as He, 1998), Ein Sportstück (A Sport Piece, 1998).
For her work in literature the author has been awarded numerous awards and acknowledgements: the prestigious Büchner Award in 1998; the eminent Heine Award in 2002, which beside its literary value draws attention also to the author's social engagement in critical thinking about the time we are living in; and in 2004, as one of few women ever, the Nobel Prize.