A play about love and broken relationships. About what happens when a couple is separating, when one of the two decides to leave. »At a time when theatre is dominated by concepts and reinterpretation, Rambert hit the bull's eye of a relationship between a man and a woman,« explains the director Ivica Buljan. The trap in Love’s End is that love story of the title. »The play does not pit one lover against the other,« says the author of the text Pascal Rambert.»That would be too easy. I’m trying rather to draw two trajectories that, at a certain point, find a form of freedom after an impossible suffering.«
We all know that a love story rarely ends calmly. In fact, it is quite the opposite. When a woman and a man declare the begging of the end, it’s almost certain that an outrage of violence is to be expected. The word is not even strong enough to express all the verbal executions to which the partners will subject one another. We know from experience that in this kind of situation people can’t stand each other, nor are they willing to forgive. Any contact with the other seems like an open wound, a dreadful abyss, a dismay that brings one near to exploding and that makes one feel constantly disconnected, without the possibility of return.
What happens when infatuation fades away and love disappears? What to do when two people don’t belong together anymore? When they cannot or will not be in a relationship anymore? Love’s End is an ending of a story. A story about a couple who try to end and to close their shared story. Two excellent actors, Pia Zemljič and Marko Mandić, a couple also off-stage, will close their love relation and partnership on stage. They are driven by rage and an extreme force of separation. Through language and movement the two characters raise a barbed wire between them and they try to save themselves from a whirl to which they were drawn and to which they draw each other.
What awaits us are two monologues that cannot interrupt one another. Two separated streams of words – words that wouldn’t cease to flow if it weren’t for the children. »Deep inside I feel that this is a dance performance,« said the author of the text Pascal Rambert. And in a way it is – a spiritual dance that brings forth that invisible movement of the soul. And also of the nerves.
Pascal Rambert (1962) is a theatre, opera and film director, a playwright and a choreographer. Since 2007 he has been managing the Théâtre de Gennevilliers (T2G), making it a renowned place of contemporary creation and a meeting point of theatre, opera, dance, visual arts, film and philosophy.
His creations (theatre and dance) have been staged also across the borders of France – in most European countries, in Northern America and in Asia. His texts (drama, prose and poetry) are published by the French publishing house Solitaires Intempestifs, and they are translated in English, Russian, Italian, German, Chinese, Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch.
Love’s End (Clôture de l'amour) had its premiere in 2011 at Avignon Festival with Audrey Bonnet and Stanislas Nordey in main roles. Later it was staged also in Moscow, New York, Zagreb, Rome, Tokio, Berlin and Ljubljana.
In his work Pascal Rambert tries to understand the reality by moving far away from the traditional narrative procedures. He endeavours to give the reality a voice and a body and he is constantly renewing the ways and forms of performance in front of the audience. Running away from the usual ways of writing for theatre, from the stereotypes in narration and in directing, he creates plays that are somewhere between a performance art and an installation, they are singular »transformations of realtiy«. His works, deeply enrooted in contemporary art and philosophy, are »patches of white« and the spectators are invited to fill them with their own thought.
Sever award 2013 for Pia Zemljič for the role of Pia
In Pascal Rambert’s "Love’s End", directed by Ivica Buljan, Pia’s role (played by Pia Zemljič) is anthological.. One rarely sees a creation that is physically and morally as exciting and as exhausting as this one.
Pia Zemljič gives a double investment. In the first part of the play, while her partner utters brutal words of farewell, she is a silent witness erupting groans, her body is in compulsive spasms of hysteria, then it calms down and then again, deceived by the past, dreams of a lost paradise.
In this play Pia Zemljič walks the terrain of a great tragedian. Her interpretation ranges from restraint to the most dramatic gestures distinctive only of great actors. But in the second part, when she takes over in speech, she is contemporary in every aspect – her body swiftly straightens, her voice becomes stronger, her thoughts clearer, and thus she sets out to the final confrontation and walks out a winner. Pia goes to the end of words, on the blade of a sword, which she skilfully wields, she hurts and wounds her partner with precision, she is killing him without letting him any chance of pacification. Her being transforms marital scenes that remind of Bergman into a cruel physical performance. To all this, Pia Zemljič adds virtuoso sound alliterations that lead the audience to extreme pleasure and make a connection with the actress in complete understanding and support.
About the performance
If we say that in his play from 2005, Début de l’A, Pascal Rambert opened the theme of love with the letter A, Love's End is a closure where he settles the accounts and completes the inventory before love’s final liquidation. In the original text the lovers are named Stan in Audrey (in our performance, according to the author’s demand, they are Marko and Pia). They were portrayed by Stanislas Nordey and Audrey Bonnet, and on the basis of resemblance with the actors’ traits, Rambert created his two characters. He found his inspiration in their bodies, voices and distinctive styles, easily recognisable to French and experienced international audiences.
The theme of this »banal« tragedy is love. Although Audrey and Stan (Pia and Marko) are not tragic heroes, but an ordinary couple in a crisis, drowning in everyday problems, the action is not less painful and violent than it is in tragedies. Not for the actors, and neither for the audience. Not many contemporary texts can touch us so directly and can permeate, in spite of being prosaic, to the most secret depths of the core essence.
Love’s End is a text with sublime theoretical motives slithering, as parasites, in love kitsch. It consists of two monologues developing the same speech about a shared life, a drastic break-up and about the horror of the unknown future. Both characters are full of contempt, cold and cruelty. In this duel between a man and a woman, speech is the only weapon; words are like shots and blows of a bayonet. Stan (Marko) starts the dispute, Audrey (Pia) ends it. When one is talking, the other is listening, preying from the thick silence. Due to the physical tension, the spoken dialogue seems as a simultaneous answer to the silence of the mute partner.
Pascal Rambert creates theatre with great pleasure and he does not draw only upon an intense story and suspense but recognises the text and the performance as an opportunity to explore the essence of the theatre and the actor’s role in the integrity of life. Theatre presents itself through its own disposition, but Rambert tests its birth from the magical substance through the direct effect on the spectator. While the spectators watch with excitement the entanglement of the break-up, they are also confronted with the questions about basic theatre principles: what is a view, what listening means, what is the stage.
Blurring the line between the actor and the character reinforces the spectator’s voyeuristic position and thus emphasises the brutality of the situation, as well as the feeling that the spectator is witnessing a reality. The spectator does not identify with the action via fictional characters but via false intimacy with the performers and their story.
In some parts Pascal Rambert draws parallels to Racine's Berenice directed by his professor Antoine Vitez. This was a performance where the characters of Titus and Berenice were interpreted by the director and Madeleine Marion. A theatre legend says that they could move enormous pillars only by the power of words. Racine’s foreword to Berenice is strongly reflected in Love’s End. Passionate devotion and violent break-ups of the lovers like Titus and Berenice, Eneas and Dido or Orpheus and Eurydice remind us that tragedies are not only blood and heroes with clothes drenched in it. It is enough if the action is »great«, if the protagonists are heroic, if passions are unbearably exaggerated and if everything is an experience of majestic sadness that brings »the real pleasure« in a tragedy.
Pascal Rambert's texts and performances were inspired by the work of Claude Régy, a director concentrated exclusively on speech and consequently on minimalistic mise-en-scéne. The motives in Love's End are similar to another Rambert's idol - Pina Bausch. Love and relationship between a man and a woman are portrayed in a series of tense movements and sudden relaxations, passions and suffering; watching all this, the spectators enjoy themselves immensely.
The text talks about the violence of two particular identities. On one side, there is a cold-hearted man; being powerless because he still loves, Stan’s language becomes feisty and aggressive. Bravely and powerfully he expresses what he usually hides – the real reason for the break-up. On the other side, there is Audrey’s language – a woman’s language, calmly showing its power in the destruction of the Other.
Pascal Rambert's theatre is a witness to social evolution and its new means of expression. When talking about the inability to continue the relationship, Stan uses information terminology.
There are practically no capital letters and no intra-sentence punctuation in the text. It is an energetic speech full of repetitions, variations and endless endeavours to be more precise. The structure of the sentence is close to every day language, words are not clear enough in their meaning and they illustrate all difficulties that people have in communication. This is not merely a story about a couple breaking up; it is a break-up in the story itself.
Love's End changes the usual nostalgic procedure in which fragments of what used to be a shared life, like objects of nostalgia (a trip to Florence, a story about the chair with pink embroidery, first sexual intercourse with a taste of sadomasochism ...), are taken out of context and placed in a sort of a timeless mythic present.
What is the secret of the play's seducing appeal? Love's End is a pure story about love in times when pure stories about love are no longer possible, when we can only remember them as lost remains of the past. A collective dream of the Western man is that one can die when love dies. But in real life we see that everyone survives this death. Love »ever after« like in great stories is not easy. Fictional characters can have it, but us, mere mortals, we try to revive over and over again the intensity of »true love« by constantly multiplying it.
A selection of quotations
»Rambert continues the tradition of French theatre, which is quite static. Buljan's decision not to go by those principles is liberating. To be a statue or a sculpture on stage is not my cup of tea, nor is it Pia’s; besides, our environment, atmosphere and temperament are different.« Marko Mandić; Delo, 22.8.2013
»The play IS 'ending' love, but it talks only about this subject. It's trying to exorcise love from body and head, but it offers proof that it is here. Theatre is no longer reserved for big catastrophic themes, love and feelings are returning, and also the perspective is changing – it was long considered that love should be treated with emotional distance or with irony. Here, the irony is left behind the door, everything is dead serious. « Marko Mandić; Delo, 22.8.2013
»In this play we dig so deep in ourselves that I need a view of my co-actor, who either agrees with what I feel or opposes it. Love’s End is a step further from partnership, there is a family that needs a different kind of relationship; it is not merely about a relation between two people, but about a community with its specific code that transcends personalharmony or a conflict between two individuals. « Pia Zemljič; Delo, 22.8.2013
»This is not a conversational drama where we witness some more or less serious marital dispute in a documentary style; it is a tragedy, banal tragedy, but a tragedy nonetheless. A slaughter of love, spewing words that slap and sting, then sometimes billow out as poetry of poetries in the style of classical tragedies, and then again coarsely and vulgarly contaminate the air.« Pia Zemljič, Planet Siol, 26.8.2013
»I take hold of the text, of the role, the situation, director’s guidelines, and I let all this flow through me. From the larynx, heart, plexus, stomach, ovaries, to … all those roles of mine inhabit me.« Pia Zemljič, Planet Siol, 26.8.2013
»I think that who you work with is of essential meaning. Also the actors who make you grow. With whom you act, with whom you act in duets, this is all of crucial importance. It is not about measuring power, but about an encounter of two different energies that have to get synchronised.« Marko Mandić, Planet Siol, 26.8.2013
»Koltès's March, also directed by Buljan, seems to me as an introduction to our mutual theatre project; there, we also fight a peculiar war of passion, love and separation. That was the first step. Here, we develop it all the way. It's an attempt to cross borders – where is that final line in my own perception of the character? With your private-life partner who really knows you, you have to do this in a very precise manner, you have to strike the right notes, exactly the ones that will sound convincing.« Marko Mandić; Delo, 22.8.2013
»Love's End is not only a play with a plot full of suspense which we all bare on our backs through our lives, it is also an opportunity to explore the essence of theatre and the actor's role in it and in the integrity of life in general. During the play the actors reveal an intimacy that the audience would like to share with them. In real life we all safely secure this kind of intimacy with double locks. But in Love’s End those locks break … Between the actors, the audience and the inevitable ending there is nothing. No theatricality. It is an open heart surgery. Who dies? What dies? Love? No. Language. A relationship between two people in a language – physical or verbal. When we kill a relationship, we kill a language …« Patricija Maličev; Planet Siol, 26.8.2013
From the reviews
"In two hours a lot of words are spoken. They are destroying, violent, deadly serious, full of reproach and hatred, but also banal, kind and comical. Marko was obviously never obsessed by love and his obsession with banal seducing doomed his love. Love made Marko even more empty and frustrated. /.../ During his monologue Pia is quiet, trapped in a net of her partner’s intentions about the end of their relationship. When it is Pia’s turn, when she answers to him – also in an unbelievably long monologue – her power gets a voice. The man she loves and with whom she has three children is defeated in a flash, transformed in a scoundrel. After her performance the audience expects reconciliation, restoration of "love ever after"." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
"While Marko is a self-righteous show-off, Pia craftily and passionately embodies love, power and identity. Through the whole play we can feel the end of a big love coming, but there is also a flicker of hope in the air. Even if only by Pia’s merit, because no one relies on Marko anymore, since he has long buried any hope in the refit of true and pure love." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
"Ivica Buljan directs the play Love's End on an empty stage. Only in the background some theatre clutter can be seen – props from some former plays, and then there are also sound – noise from a ventilator or the air-conditioner, and light – "working light", simple, as is the directing procedure. Buljan builds his direction on the structure of the text, on its sentence, which resembles a tsunami. After a high wave of words, there comes another, even higher, and in it, even more sharp and unbearable words and sentences. This repeating rhythm of "vocal scenes", full of emotion, is precise, the monologue is synchronised with the movement, the actors move back and forth, and only occasionally right and left. A line is drawn on the stage and they rarely cross it. All this indicates that situations are being repeated and misunderstandings caused by the characters are being settled." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
"In Love's End Buljan is a master of minimalistic mise-en-scène. He does not tackle transitions and actors’ relations with trendy new methods, but follows the monologue as the core of theatre acting. He transforms the stage into an emotional imagery, heroism to modesty, pleasure to tranquillity, devotion to jealousy, escape from reality to search for a different love. He lets down the spoiled spectator: the magic of the stage and fiction, the suspense and disentanglement are replaced by the spectators’ introspection and “stage-spection”, contact with the actors, interaction with their own love and their own marriage. His direction uses the language of fine arts; it is an installation of dreams and predictions. A model direction." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
"Pia Zemljič as Pia is outstanding; her monologue in the second part of the play exceeds all expectations. In a war-like passion she is a winner, her language is impeccable, she is brimming with power, passion, anger and scorn. Marko Mandič as Marko is destructive, meat-slicer-like ..." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
"Space and sound were in the hands of the excellent son:DE, the costumes were made by Ana Savić Gecan, the dramaturge and assistant director was Robert Waltl, the play Love’s End (Clôture de l'amour) was translated by Suzana Koncut." The Last Refit of Eternal Love; Zdenko Kodrič, Večer, 28.8.2013
»Pia Zemljič and Marko Mandić throw themselves into the action of ending love directly after the last harmonious contact followed by a sudden (and meaningful) dramatic turn - his decision for the break-up. He seems to need some convincing himself, but his actions are fiery and they restrict his adversary's freedom of movement, he still thinks he owns her and he is creating a position of power for himself. When he is done and when the woman (also literally) changes her skirt for trousers, what happens is more than only a reversal of the roles – the position of power in not invented, it is real; there is no need for a greater effect on the (physical) response of her partner, who is slowly diminishing before her as she is revealing the core of the problem. « A Duel Between His and Her Language; Ana Perne, Dnevnik, 29.8.2013
»In Love's End we don't only witness an argument, a separation where the partners would scream out everything that accumulated over the years and would then walk away, each in their own direction; we witness two carefully written texts – the initial strike and the answer to it. They both draw inspiration in everyday language, with all its elisions, unfinished sentences or excessive verbosity and a lot of repetition. We follow two monologues that include also the other person present (the partner) and his direct, event though silent or rather, non-verbal, physical reactions to what is being said. « A Duel Between His and Her Language; Ana Perne, Dnevnik, 29.8.2013
»Love's End is thus a duel based on words – on his somewhat philosophical thoughts and on her penetration to the essence – but it also has a physical input that the actors add to their accomplished interpretation. Buljan’s focus lies in the couple and in the intensity of their relationship, which crosses the stage boundaries.« A Duel Between His and Her Language; Ana Perne, Dnevnik, 29.8.2013
Festivals and guest performances
Silbansko ljeto (Croatia); August 2013
Zadar snova, 17. International Festival of Contemporary Theatre (Croatia); August 2013
Nagib Maribor (Slovenia); September 2014
49th Maribor Theatre Festival (Slovenia); October 2014
International Theatre Festival (ITF) Skupi Festival (Macedonia); October 2015
Sever Award 2013 for Pia Zemljič for the role of Pia; December 2013
Prešeren Fund Award 2015 for Pia Zemljič for the role of Pia; February 2015