MACBETH AFTER SHAKESPEARE, Ivica Buljan
Instead of being interested in history chronicles such as Shakespeare used to write, Müller is primarily interested in a critique of any militant authority, the one that comes to power exclusively through argument of force and stays because the only true sense of power is - to stay in power. Today it is difficult to say who exactly the East-German playwright was describing. Ivica Buljan however dedicated a special tribute to one of his models, Pasolini, and to his constant obsession with the illiterate fascism, so he gave the Macbeth clique to sing Bandiera nera (Black Flag). Instead of fine court etiquette, we find here something more like the set design of Oz; the Scottish ruler and his escort, be it in peace or at war, function mainly as a gang – they entertain themselves snarling at one another like dogs, and every transgression of the unwritten code is sanctioned with a group rape.
(Igor Ružić, Radio 101 Zagreb)
Fascinating »Macbeth« of our time
Ivica Buljan, who is keen on Müller's works (he staged his Quartet very successfully), created - in a two-hour vigorously tense rhythm using the advantages of a mostly empty space and the physical theatre in combination with a floating spirit of the theatre of cruelty - a fascinatingly odd picture of Macbeth, a tyrant of our time. The text Macbeth after Shakespeare (1971) in Buljan's interpretation, supported by the dramaturgy of Diana Koloini, is not about some general absolutistic ruler, yet it is about a concrete, localized, heartless bully who spreads horror without hesitation or feeling of guilt. So, the floor is marked with geographic length and width of Zagreb (set design by the art group son-DA who created also the lighting design), as a clear sign that the performance is happening “now and here”, and it cannot be simply moved elsewhere. From the first scene on, Buljan insists on group masculine scenes radiating male power and liking, scenes alluding on pictures from war camps, from the times when the army leader Macbeth had not yet committed his first crime - the killing of King Duncan. This testosterone energy is confirmed through every move, it wears out in mutual touching, rough games, fights, demonstrations of retained and dissolute man-to-man sexuality; it has the power of an unstoppable and disastrous hurricane.
Fate is not predicted by witches as in Shakespeare, but it is made by men – the chosen, the daring villains lacking of character. They become the dramaturgically essential »collective body« shaping a set of scenes in a dominant, exact and shocking choreography created by Tanja Zgonc. The ball of interlaced bodies exposed to nakedness, bodies of suffering and giving represent the leading Buljan's precedent also in scenes that follow. This goes especially for the scenes of aggressive outburst resulting in stravic crimes – the allusion to the present world is clear and semantically very rich. Well, the ironizing process embracing Müller's Macbeth in Buljan's reading is best ever focused in the scenes following the regicide and in the brilliant allocutions performed by Lady Macbeth; this is when the inexplicable killings begin - always supported by the wild gang following their thirst for blood and being mislead into a nationalistic, right-wing groupation very much alike the fan-groups supporting their football team and their wild football raging. Buljan presents the ex-army leader in pictures of his hereditary proneness to certain models of rural behaviour. The scene of debauched feeding with meat and offering it to the audience, of gin drinking and ecstasies at sounds of turbo folk music - it represents the moment when all the masks of the successful power holders fall. The song taken from a toilsome movie Salò or 120 Days of Sodomacreated by Pier Paolo Pasolini offers a perfect association to the fascist dictatorship which seems never to be out rooted in its perpetuated forms.
The director builds the mise-en-scene very attractively, daringly and courageously by widening the movements of the actors into the theatre, by forcing also a general interactivity, yet everything with the purpose of unifying and drawing the audience nearer to the social mechanism which grinds the bad and leaves out the rotten. Everyone present is invited to this bloody feast which actually exists because of them - as if the critical director wanted to underline - a director who places the actors among the audience so they could be unified in a bond of the ever-the-same wheel of hunger for strength and power.
In Macbeth after Shakespeare Marko Mandić as the leading character performed his difficult role as physically palpable: he is excellent in passages where in his psychic decay he takes off the clothes from his body, almost rasping his skin. He succeeds in conjuring his horror by straining every vein in his body, which is a rare and extremely difficult way of presenting the role. Milena Zupančić was brilliant – less demonic and more “ordinarily ambitious”; well she is always a step away from her king, touching in her marriage partnership. Polona Vetrih was rather enigmatic and restrained in performing Banquo. Within the group of actors who played several roles, it is difficult to extract anyone in particular since they all created a row of memorable interpretations - Jurij Drevenšek (Court Dame, Lenox), Jure Heningman (Duncan, Malcolm), Jose (Doctor, Ross), Stipe Kosanić (Killer); Domen Valič (Seyton) and Anže Zevnik (Second Killer, Macduff). The music is signed by Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar; the „militant" costumes were created by Ana Savić Gecan.
(Helena Braut, Vjesnik Zagreb)
EVIL IS A DRUG
“My death will not change the world”; these are approximately the words that Macbeth says before the last settlement where the outcome is known in advance. The words place a huge question mark to all his actions made so far - of course they are all bloody – yet at the same time they offer an answer: so what if the world does not change; it is actually about the struggle itself, the struggle because of the struggle. In Buljan’s staging the sharply marked line of Heiner Müller’s drama is – not merely for the travesty or adaptation of Shakespeare’s text Macbeth after Shakespeare – sharpened till its very end; up to the edge of strength in this testosterone fight among the aggressive overbearing, self-sufficient … males. For domination in a herd they are ready to do actually anything. Today, this domination is seen of course as a fight for power: it includes all forms of totalitarianism, discrimination, exploitation, unscrupulous acts, egomania … yet most of all it represents the absence of any ethics whatsoever which in their language means – endless slaughtering.
The amphitheatre shape of the hall Štihova dvorana at Cankarjev dom is an ideal scene for such a settlement (the absent-present set design by son-Da – mere marking of geographical coordinates – just confirming it). In the contents Buljan actually offers no smoothing; he creates no parallel meaning to the text, there is no re-interpretation. He “forces” the text to rush constantly with the same intensity, same speedy rhythm, an in the same “grey-green” military tones. Of course, the danger of violence aesthetisation (and consequently the loss of charge) is very close to such staging, yet it is overcome by its very persistence which gives violence a ritual role.
Therefore, all this male energy starts to act not only emotionally fascinating, but becomes dark and annoying. This is of course the prevailing sensation which is (similar yet completely different as with Shakespeare) occasionally interrupted by comic scenes – some kind of a cold shower with satire, alienation and gallows humour. On one hand, the passages among the scenes are quick, jerky and unpredictable, on the other hand – also due to the music created by Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar – absolutely non-violent or long drawn. There are no requisites whatsoever; everything is carried out by gesture and movement; everything flows dramaturgically smooth and non-problematic; yet at the same time obviously violent and extremely sadistic (“bloody” scenes of cutting and slaughtering). Perhaps one of the crucial issues in this staging: almost all the scenes - regardless their dramaturgic weight and the bearing of the story – are elaborated to detail, as some small etudes representing links or independent units at the same time.
Of course, this coherent, cleansed and clear Buljan’s interpretation is “chronically” bound to the actors team. The base consists of his team of “workers” taking over the numerous episode roles; they keep speeding the tempo, yet at the same time they take care of a constant dynamics through their raw male energy and through their numerous given roles; in the sextet Jurij Drevenšek, Jose, Stipe Kostanič, Domen Valič, Anže Zevnik and Jure Henigman the greatest part is carried out by the latter. The only two women here are Polona Vetrih and Milena Zupančič. The first one performs in a male role; the second one is Macbeth’s wife. The very appearance of Milena Zupančič as Lady Macbeth - this time already somehow older yet still ambitious in her primal energy of a subordinated wife - represents a fresh tone to the monochromic male energy; at the same time however, through her private appearance, she reinstates a distance towards the character of the performed role offering thus unavoidable and additional associative interventions.
Above this “mob” there is the character of Macbeth performed by Marko Mandič. Not depending on female energy, abandoned to himself and – after mere hesitation, not doubt (fear yes) – he is ready to go till the end. However, within this uncontrolled roundabout of violence he becomes more a more human and towards the end, almost understandable and sympathetic. Mandič succeeds, within clearly defined borders, to draw a deep and accurate study on something as abstract and unimaginable as the issue of humanized evil. An evil that fears, hesitates, also doubts, an evil that changes its aggregate state, arouses worries, and of course an evil that incites and appeals. Evil is actually a drug, and in Mandič’s interpretation its impact is clearly visible through his transition from a coherent representative of the aristocracy over a wild tyrant infected by the sent of power to a completely ruined - personally and physically – average man. Muller’s secretly foisted joke – the one that forces us to sympathize with the tyrants – gains its continuation with the very last sentence pronounced by Duncan’s son: “I am going to England.” Somewhere else it could mean a better place, with Buljan however it sounds as an ultimate joke: the West as a space of freedom and ethics? Please...
(Andrej Jaklič, Delo, Ljubljana)
MACBETH AFTER SHAKESPEARE
(Mladina, February 6, 2009)Opening night of Heiner Müller's performance, Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana
Damjana Černe, actress at Slovene Youth Theatre Ljubljana:
»For me personally Macbeth after Shakespeare is the best Buljan's performance so far, and I think I have seen quite some. Why? A voided space, a good concept, an exceptional acting team playing through situations in an actors (life) ring; the actors give so very much that one can physically feel the disgust towards violence and stupidity happening so close to us every day. Super, bravo!«
Damir Domitrović Kos, director of the Ex Ponto Festival (Cultural Association B51): »The performanace - actually without a positive character, full of brutality, evil, and lies – has courageously opened an additional value to the idea of the project. A typical feature of the present time is to keep our eyes closed in front of a culmination of manipulation, brutality and lies; the very topics and the aesthetics of Macbeth offers the audience, with no compromise whatsoever, some kind of a mirror of the present time. However, the main effect of this Buljan's performance is definitely the fact that it presents (in a very modern, brutal and simple way) the problem in the exactly right light as it is required by the society, so we can capture and recognize ourselves – through actuality and brutality.«