A Triptych: 2007 / 2009 / Eternal.
In the first part (2007), ten de-individualised persons (actors?) wearing stocking masks act out five everyday scenes reminiscent of Rumania's tradition of absurd, grotesque theatre. On the surface, these miniatures deal with violence, power and social conditions, language and the difficulty of possible or impossible communication, yet underneath they reveal the pessimism of alienation, lack of authenticity and helplessness in coping with the new freedom.
The second part (2009) breaks with this literary tradition, consciously juxtaposing it with realistic street language. This section focuses on six young actors from a provincial theatre who have joined forces for an unusual protest in their own theatre. They have occupied the theatre's second floor and barricaded themselves in behind a makeshift wall: protest by self-incarceration. In a radio interview, Mishka, their leader, clearly expresses their aims: “The long and short of it is that we are not going to tolerate indifference anymore – know what I mean? And no general disrespect. Our main goal is to get all theatres in Rumania to stop productions at once until society is capable of behaving like a society based on healthy common sense. Naturally, we've already made a start in our own ‘realm’ – with our own jobs. We wanted our strike to be official. The management refused to recognize it. And then we build the wall. And we’re not going to come out until things have changed.”
These young people want a different life, another type of theatre, a different kind of freedom; they want to force individual and personal recognition. But the theatre director patronizingly offers the general public a blanket excuse for the actors’ behaviour: “Artists are peculiar creatures, you know. They are consumed and clouded by an inner fire. They have to express themselves. You could say that the wall is a kind of art.” But by upgrading the protest to “art”, the young people’s concerns are devalued and become absurd.
Neither taking the theatre director temporarily hostage nor media announcements produce any practical results. Behind the makeshift wall, there are still hopes of at least being important enough to be kept under surveillance and infiltrated by an informer, but nothing happens. Resistance starts to crumble. In the end, one day the walls are simply sealed off from outside. The senseless protest is superseded by a silent forgetting. Anyone seeking to exclude himself or herself is lost.
The third part (Eternal) is set on the border between Rumania and the rest of the world. Once again the ten nameless figures appear, this time without the stocking masks but accompanied by garden dwarfs with violins. Together, they sing a popular Rumanian folk song about a poor hairdresser’s love for a dressmaker who dies from TB. In the refrain, we learn that the dressmaker is not actually dead but has metamorphosed.
Nearly twenty years after the Wall came down, this Rumanian contribution presents theatre as the mirror of a constantly changing world, innovative and provocative and, at the same time, perplexing in many ways. This is an attempt to set Rumania’s relations to Europe in a new light based on a new fundamental insight: rather than theatre changing society, it is, if at all, people who change theatre. In socialism, theatre gave people a refuge. That traditional function appears to be lost. There are entirely new walls blocking every protest.
A text by Jens Groß