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Charlotte - Dušan Štrbac

 
 
"Charlotte" is a reconstruction of a monodrama "I am my own wife" premiered in January 2007 at the Gallery Progres, Belgrade. After only a few performance, it was removed from the repertoire and now, 8 years later, the show has taken on a new form and a new life, and what a life it is!

The play tells the story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (1928-2002) born as Lothar Berfelde known as a collector of rarities, a legendary gay icon and founder of the Grunderzeit Museum in Germany. Slobodan Beštić portrays Charlotte and people gravitating around her life, a total of more than 20 characters. With ease he jumps between characters and situations, communicates with the audience, breaks the fourth wall and still is able to involve the spectator and play to his imagination. The scenery is presented as a white box with the use of projections of authentic locations, such as the Grunderzeit Museum, but also a reconstruction of media reports and interviews in which Slobodan portrays all the characters. Without any props or scenography, except a single chair, the actor plays to the spectators’ imagination and depicting the rarities with such precision and loveliness that one could imagine Charlotte herself standing in the middle of her Museum. With all this in mind, the play is cleverly staged in various Museums and exhibition spaces.

Although a deeply biographical and personal story, the play, as Charlotte herself, transcends the boundaries of the mundane and everyday life and experiences. Spanning through some of the most important moments in history such as the Second World War, the rise and fall of the Berlin wall, the queer movement in Germany, the directors use of text and images paints the picture equally important for each individual and poses the question of the lack humanity in modern society.

Are we so deeply involved in our own personal problems and history that we succeed in forgetting the importance of truth, honesty, kindness and our general responsibility towards the society we life in? The pursuit of responsibility has turned into a race of avoiding it, negating it even in our own intimate universe.

What is the responsibility of the individual in the society and how does one contribute to it? Are we content with staying on the margins and venting our frustration in closed circles or via comments on popular social networks, closing ourselves from the reality even further, or is a proactive attitude something that should be put on, as an actor puts his mask before stepping to the stage? Can there even be such a thing as a society of individuals?

With the constant rise of nationalism and extremist groups in Serbia this play stands boldly, head-on, and raises a mirror on which our actions will be measured. As Charlotte had the bravery to walk in women's clothing even at gunpoint the play opens the question are we prepared to do the same? Will we defend our ideals or will we cower at the face of the slightest conflict? It is important to be cunning, Charlotte speaks to us. It is important to find a way to defend our agenda even in the face of danger.

Raising all of these questions and more it is this critic's humble opinion that this play and others like it could give us new perspectives, strength and firm ground on which our future will be shaped on. 

Šarlota [Charlotte], UK Parobrod
Autor kritike: Dušan Štrbac
29.8.2015.

Charlotte.jpg

 

Edited by Richard Pettifer

 

Charlotte is a reconstruction of a monodrama I am my own Wife, which premiered in January 2007 at Gallery Progres, Belgrade. After just a few performances, it attracted the censors and was removed from the repertoire. Now, 8 years later, the show has taken on a new form and a new life courtesy of the Belgrade-based partnership of director Anđelka Nikolić and actor Slobodan Beštić.

Although a deeply biographical and personal story, the play, as Charlotte herself, transcends the boundaries of mundane and everyday personal experiences. Spanning through some of the most important moments in history such as the Second World War, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, and the queer movement in Germany, the use of text and images paints the picture equally important for each individual and poses the question of the lack of humanity in modern society.

The play’s strength is certainly its ability to weave a story from very little. The sole focus is the story of the titular Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (1928-2002) - born as Lothar Berfelde - a well-known collector of rarities, legendary gay icon, and founder of the Grunderzeit Museum in Germany. The monologue sees Beštić portray Charlotte and people gravitating around her life, more than 20 characters in total. He jumps between characters and situations fluidly, at times communing directly with the audience, breaking the fourth wall whilst still involving the spectator’s imagination. The scenery is presented in a white box - with the use of projections mainly limited to authentic locations of Charlotte’s existence such as the Grunderzeit Museum – and reconstructions of media reports and interviews in which Slobodan portrays both interviewer and interviewee. With props and set limited to a single chair, the actor recreates elements with such precision and loveliness that one can well imagine Charlotte herself standing in the middle of her Museum.

With the constant rise of nationalism and extremist groups in Serbia, this play stands boldly, head-on, and raises a mirror on which our actions are measured. Charlotte’s bravery in walking in women's clothing - even at gunpoint – forces the question: are we prepared to do the same? Will we defend our ideals, or will we cower at the face of the slightest conflict? “It is important to be cunning”, Charlotte states. “It is important to find a way to defend our agenda even in the face of danger”. Are we so deeply involved in our own personal problems and history that we succeed in forgetting the importance of truth, honesty, kindness and our general responsibility towards the society we life in? The pursuit of responsibility has turned into a race of avoiding it, negating it, even in our own intimate universe.

That these questions of responsibility are so pertinent 8 years after its premiere speaks to the strength and timelessness of the play’s writing. There are some who would dismiss the responsibility of the individual in the society, its related questions of the individual’s necessary role in building that society. Are we content with staying on the margins and venting our frustration in closed circles or via comments on popular social networks – in some ways closing ourselves from the reality even further - or is a proactive attitude something that should be put on, as an actor puts his mask before stepping to the stage? After all, there is no such thing as a society of individuals.

With little more than the technical traditions of acting and some projections, Nikolić and Beštić recreate a performance of real transformative intent, using the play’s controversial censoring to demand a dialogue of no less than the perspectives, strength and firm ground upon which our future will be shaped.