The play dwells on one of the most pressing issues of our time – suicide as a result of total crisis and loss of meaning in life, in an especially ironic form of “tragicomedy of 13 steps with one break and one fall.” The roof, where two people on the verge of committing a suicide met and a couple of cat-witnesses, becomes a special territory between heaven and earth, life and death, love and hatred, harmony and absurd. The author admitted that for several years the play was if “charmed” for silence and only recently began touring Ukraine and countries abroad (the play has been staged in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, it has been translated into Russian, Polish, English, Armenian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian), it participated in an international project “The Grand Duchy of Drama,” was listed in a catalogue of Europe’s best plays “European Theater Convention.” Noteworthy that last year at almost the same time the play was successfully staged at Juliusz Osterwa Lublin Theater (as a part of the festival “Night of Culture”). Polish interpretation of the Suicide of Solitude was more farcical. The Macedonia version turned out to be more mystical. In fact, it became a story told by cats about their past lives and drifting fall in another dimension, where unity becomes the most important. Staging of the play is a part of a joint international theater project. Below is The Day’s interview with the director-producer of the show Oleksandr MIROSHNYCHENKO.
Could you, please, tell us about the joint Ukrainian-Macedonian project, how did it originate?
“The initiator of the project was the famous Ukrainian writer and translator Anna Bahriana. Macedonian audience first got acquainted with modern Ukrainian drama through the play Silk Star in Stip – this was the forerunner of the project. The idea was to start a dialogue between two cultures in the implementation of modern drama. Today we know much more about the cultural environment of Great Britain, France, or the United States than of those countries that are closer to us both culturally and linguistically, such as Macedonia.
“The project began on September 8, 2010 with a premiere of VALE ET ME AMA based on the play by Trajce Kacarov translated by Anna Bahriana at ‘MIST’ Theater. Kacarov is a playwright, poet, translator, and director. The play was staged for the first time in Bulgaria, but there it was more realistic and close to everyday life, while our performance was presented in a form of a theatrical parable, plastic and musical fantasy.
“The play is a kind of a trap, post-dramatic maze-play. It hides philosophical parable of the two souls, who cause both endless pain and endless joy to each other from being together. This ambiguity is revealed in the paradox title, epistolary Latin form, which means ‘Farewell, and love me.’ Complex music and plastic score of the play, where the music by Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jean Sibelius is not just the accompaniment, but also a character of the play, it creates a special world of the performance. ‘Tangled’ literally in ropes and figuratively in subtexts, the world that exists beyond time and space. Some spectators came to the show a few times and, from what they said, every time they discovered something absolutely new and unexpected.
“For the second phase of the project I was invited to stage a modern Ukrainian play in Macedonia. It was extremely important for us to choose a piece that would clearly resonate with the world view of Macedonian audience and would not need additional explanation. Therefore, the choice was made collectively from several options and we settled on the play by Neda Nezhdana Suicide of Solitude translated by Anna Bahriana and Trajce Kacarov. The success of the premiere at the Aco Sopov Theater in Stip proved it to be a good choice.”
Could you, please, tell us about your conception of the play and what was the most important thing for you?
“This play was staged many times and was interpreted as both tragedy and farce. The important thing for me was its double nature – tragicomedy, laughter through tears. This kind of a stereo effect was present in both the scenic space and the actors’ performance. According to our version of ‘a theater within a theater,’ Cats act as a kind of ‘dell’arte’ servants who welcome the public, set up the stage scenery and ‘lead’ the play, watching and sometimes helping the protagonists who exist in a different stylistics, which is more realistic. The stage is divided into two spaces: a bigger one is like an arena surrounded by a fence and tubs, which also serve as a kind of tambourines, pedestals and mini-towers. In the middles is a silver square: more ‘surrealist,’ with the effect of a warped world ‘behind the looking glass’ and with chimerical roots that grow from the walls and the ceiling. This is a space from which different paths are possible – up and down. In the finale, He and She put on, before jumping into the unknown, silvery coats as if entering this ‘transition’ space. One moment later, the cats are already dressed in these coats. This maybe interpreted both as transmigration of souls and the universality of history itself. The important thing for me was not whether they crashed or not – this question is left open – but the fact that they were not alone. This question of lonesomeness/company became thekey. It is important in love, professional career and life in general – to find another person who will understand and sense you, a person who will need you. In my opinion, alienation is one of the most burning issues today. The play is about this problem.”
What was the perception of the play by the Macedonian audience?
“Very good. It should be noted that people in Macedonia have a special attitude to Ukraine, because in 2001 Ukrainian pilots essentially saved the independence of this country. A person may simply come up to you on the street and thank for assistance. Moreover, Ukrainians and Macedonians are similar at some archetypal level. This includes world perception, love for music and humor. I thinkthat, on the one hand, it was thanks to this affinity that the play was perceived by the Macedonian audience as a currently relevant one rather than exotic. Add to this the acting, rather than psychological, nature of the theatre; irony, including black humor; the tragedy of the life of a ‘small man’; natural perception of the absurd, etc.”
In your opinion, are the differences between our cultures significant?
“Above all, our attitude to culture is different. I believe that there is a direct dependence between the place of culture in the social hierarchy of priorities and the unoriginality of cultural products. By the number of art projects that are supported by the state and by its attitude to culture Macedonia must be one of the leaders. The policy is to make the cultural space as open as possible. In this respect, our authorities should learn from Macedonia.”
What is the future of the project?
“We plan to publish an anthology of Macedonian drama in Ukrainian translations and Ukrainian drama in Macedonian. We want Suicide of Solitude and Vale Et Me Ama to participate in theatrical festivals, and we want to stage new plays. We have taken the first steps in the dialogue with one another and I hope that our cooperation will be long and interesting.”