Written at the opening night
»Schneewittchen by Robert Walser (translated by Milan Štefe), its festival premiere was last Wednesday in Cankarjev dom, Ivica Buljan adds After Party to the title, has at least for the last few years enjoyed the status of a delicacy, when the reputation of this pioneer among Swiss modernists from the beginning of the 20th century has been considerably re-established. The performance completely relies on the form of the performance of a travelling players, with breaks for change of costumes and for tuning of the jazz trio, animating the stage happenings with recited stage directions (or with humorous allusion to »hey-ho« of the Disney dwarfs). It is a parodical epilogue of a classical fairy tale – only that here the question of the defeated and the winner is not raised, since the 20th century does not offer refuge not even to the fairy-tale myth. … Behind the wall of the “morality” everybody is only human ; and also the relationships between Walser’s characters are fluid. As if they had already experienced madness, they appear cold-blooded, inhuman, mocking the fairy-tale story. There is something “indeterminable” in the air, multi-connotative – there remains the impression of the surreal, the hustle and bustle of no dramatic consequences. The enforced moulds, indicated in the set design by Tom Savić Gecan, are transgressed, the geography is blurred. Without the dwarfs, the poisoned apple and single-connotative confliction between the Good and the Evil – this story is over.” Primož Jesenko: Between the Fairy-tale and the Real, 9th Ex Ponto, 24 September 2002
“The performance is introduced by the director himself by address the audience at the after party, the party after the event, as are common after the contemporary evening dance marathons. As far as the content is concerned, the text is truly intriguing, it namely features the analysis, presentation of different views of each of the characters on the infamous event – the mother was supposed to give orders to the hunter to kill the delightful Snow White in the woods. Motive: envy. A seeming paradox, in truth beautifully devised dramatic impetus: we are shown actual, not in the least fairy-tale protagonists – utterly virile hunter, infantile, indecisive, happy-go-lucky Prince, the matron Queen and somewhat embittered, psychologically perchance a bit unstable, but at least this much cynical Snow White. The conflict is resolved by deux ex machina in the image of the feminised, self-obsessed King in high heels and the matter is brought to a close in a perhaps unbearable and thus necessarily ironic happy end … At any rate the performance presents the welcome view, different from the one ordinarily presented in a theatre, it being the consequence of Walser’s text as well as the director’s concept.” Anja Golob: Snow White After Snow White, Večer, 26 September 2002
“Buljan’s rendition with Slovenian and Croatian cast is an example of excellent and first-rate artistic cooperation. The result is an outstanding, direct, carnal performance, partly charged with eroticism, with smooth scenes and excellent performers. The credits go to the players and the musicians – the composer Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar. Ana Karić as the Queen is seductive, artful, perchance a bit hypocritical Stepmother, with whom it is not wise to cross swords; Schneewittchen by Veronika Drolc is intelligent, slightly neurotic, forgiving; the Princ, played by Robert Waltl, is an indecisive young man, sweet and naïve; the Hunter, portrayed by Niko Goršič, is likewise likeable with some more decisiveness. At any rate it is a performance more than welcome on our stages and worth a visit.”Tina Recek: Snow White – After party, Demokracija, 26 September 2002
An attractive, poetically dramatic vision of “Schneewittchen” by the Swiss eccentric Robert Walser / With daring theatre language, the director Ivica Buljan reconstructs a memory of a fairytale on stage.
For some he was an incomprehensible eccentric, for others he was a “black stain in the European memory” – an anarchist, a madman, a genius author. Not so long ago, Robert Walser was an obscure Swiss author whose works had inspired Franz Kafka. Today, he fascinates numerous artists and literary theoreticians. They find hidden allusions, modern linguistic shifts, autobiographical riddles, structural breaks and shattering messages in his work.
If they haven’t died, these characters are still alive today – these words were written by Walter Benjamin in his conclusion that Robert Walser’s fairytales began where others ended. And from this beginning, which in this case is the continuation of the end, Walser writes his Snow White (Schneewittchen) as a radical interpretation of the fairytale.
It is with an equally radical theatrical approach that the stage director Ivica Buljan tackles this Croatian/Slovene theatre project, a co-production involving the Mini Teater and Cankarjev Dom from Ljubljana, the Ex-Ponto Festival and the Karantena International Festival from Dubrovnik and premiering at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana.
Shattering theatrical and social conventions, Walser establishes unusual, shocking relationships between the protagonists, which are outlined in the show through Buljan’s consistent approach to directing and by the subtle acting of the cast. The psychological labyrinths in which Snow White, the Prince, the Queen and the Hunter move about and get lost are presented in a highly effective theatre performance balanced on the border between the surreal and the real, the comic and the tragic.
The performance’s structure and rhythm resemble music; its monologues are sometimes presented as arias, and the musicians – Andrej Polič, Blaž Celarec and Gregor Cvetko – are present on stage throughout, not as accompaniment but as a composite part of this astonishing theatre fairytale in which everything seems possible and permissible.
Snow White is burdened with an Electra complex and the Prince with an Oedipus complex. The Queen is the eternal object of desire while the Hunter is a scapegoat to everybody in the play and on stage.
In these highly unusual erotic combinations, in awakened and suppressed passions and unfulfilled desires, there is no way out and the fairytale resists all interpretation. Buljan achieves this through concentric circles of repeated situations and relationships, through enacted linear fissures that offer neither liberation nor solution. In terms of the narrative and style, the fairytale can no longer provide a refuge to anyone, nothing can be calmed and, in the wake of the eternal escape from rules, it can never end.
By following the coordinates of the director’s manuscript in an inspiring way, the four actors move splendidly through the claustrophobic spaces of Walser’s fairytale. Veronika Drolc is convincing in her portrayal of the neurotic Snow White, who remembers a crime. Ana Karić won the audience over with the ease with which she played the Queen. Robert Waltl was the likeable Prince, voyeuristically portrayed in some other story from the past, while Niko Goršič is the fascinating Hunter/King. The set, designed by Tomo Savić-Gecan, is minimalistically unobtrusive, Ana Savić-Gecan’s costumes allude to the fairytale, and Mara Sesardić’s choreography moves splendidly within the frame defined by the excellent music of Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar.
Called from oblivion, Walser’s “Schneewittchen” takes the audience on a daring theatre adventure or a radically new stage interpretation of the well-known fairytale.
(Dubrovka Vrgoč, TO THE FAIRYTALE THROUGH EROTIC DESIRE, Vjesnik, 25 September 2002)