OF MEN AND MEN
The fifteen minute long performance of "Have you seen Don Quixote?", POD theatre Belgrade, took place in the atrium of the festival PatosOFFiranje, amongst spectators, salesmen, artists and drunken adolescents. In this lovely medieval-like atmosphere of a city square, reminiscent of joungleurs, street artists and clowns, the theatrical cohesion was evident in a way so rarely witnessed nowadays. Moving swiftly in its pace, the show aims to cover similar ground to another performance we have seen during the festival ("Inner lights", PATOS Smederevo) - the entire nakedness of human life. But despite this not exactly humble goal, the play refuses to become a pretentious metaphysical masturbation and instead comes, delivers and leaves the spectators in a kind of daze and subconscious questioning.
But lets examine this point by point. The POD theatre, with Theatre community Čukarica, employs the young and the old, theatre professionals, dancers and amateurs. This agrees beautifully with the festival's evidental intention to put emphasis on theatre as means of including all people, despite their differences (those obvious as the hair colour, dramatic as disabilities, or commonly looked over, such as old age). The spaces of the performance, for them usually city squares or busy town locations, add to the feeling of inclusion, and are actually common for the early modern performances who tended to get out of theaters and play for whomever was interested. As far as the topic of this year's PatosOFFiranje is concerned, the breaking of walls in interpersonal communication is directly connected to the show as the actors are both starting as an audience wondering about the show before stepping out and dancing, and end their performance by walking into the crowd of spectators.
The different, grotesque, caricature-mannered style of the little segments of life represented in the performance, guided by the steady hand of a strict well dressed woman, illustrate, as the authors proclaimed "ideals of life", which take up time of any other, more significant or poetic ideals. Nothing unexpected, because the title itself refers to the absurdity of chasing windmills. Before immersing this in the context of inclusion, a short discussion is in order. The comedic acting, quick rhythms, grimaces and the carnevalish feeling of the show are all elements that contribute to the desensitisation of audiences to the perks and falls of life, strangely entertaining them with black comedy of its innevitable ending, but giving them shared universality of a more objective distance.
The discussion is whether this show's intention was to point out that life itself is the ultimate ideal (realism?), or to warn that while competing in the stupid little ideals of life we forget to compete in completing the more important ones (idealism?). This is more of a question the show leaves us with, as I mentioned earlier, than an actual attempt to give an exact answer (although I'm sure that if we were given more time at our critism workshop we would have attempted to answer it anyway).
Apparently, the primal eating-mating-dying animalism of people and, on the other hand, our competion competion competion about being the first and best in (almost) all of the above are what is, bottom line, universal about people. Funnily enough, ideals themselves make individuals into "less normal", and even though these are optional (but not always consciously chosen) unlike physical characteristics, abilities and age, place them outside of walls.
So yes, this performance is about inclusion, but also, more of a quick carnival joke on the problematic of it (and I don't mean the terrible education-wise context it has in Serbia nowadays).
Should I attempt to give answers on the fragile balance of the relatioship between uniformity, tolerance and well, being more than an animal? I don't think the show does, so neither will I. In their manner I will just try to intrigue attention, ask a question and smilingly sink into the safety of the crowd. Well entertained one, too.
OF MEN AND MEN
Edited by Richard Pettifer
Have you seen Don Quixote? is a 15 minute performance from POD theatre, Belgrade, examining the primal, competitive nature of the human being when stripped of its cultivation. There probably couldn’t be a more cohesive location for a play like this than the atrium of PATOSoffIRANJE, the spectators, salesmen, artists and drunken adolescents creating a lovely medieval-like city square reminiscent of joungleurs, street artists and clowns. Its lofty subject matter – similar to the other festival performance Inner Lights – requires a fast pace to go deep into the subject on the limited time-frame. But despite this not-exactly-humble goal, the play refuses a pretentious metaphysical masturbation, instead employing a kind of shock and awe strategy, making explosive impact before suddenly withdrawing, leaving spectators in a subconscious, questioning daze.
There’s a unique sense of inclusion to the show which mirrors the festival’s theme of inclusiveness, and POD Theatre, in colaboration with Theatre Community Čukarica, combines young and the old, theatre professionals, dancers and amateurs. All kinds of people walk the stage in the performance, despite their differences (the obvious such as hair colour, the dramatic, such as disabilities, or the commonly overlooked, such as old age). This feeling of inclusion is repected in the spaces of the performance - the group usually perform in city squares or busy public locations - and repeat the tendency of early modern performances to get out of theaters and play for whomever was interested. The actors begin as audience - wondering about the show, as we do - before stepping out and dancing, and end their performance returning to the crowd. This blurring of actor and spectator directly connects with the topic of this year's PATOSoffIRANJE ; the breaking of walls in interpersonal communication.
The title itself refers to the absurdity of chasing windmills – a feature of Don Quixote – and it’s mirrored in the singular, grotesque, caricature-mannered style of performance. We are guided by the steady hand of a strict, well-dressed woman, who takes us through short vignettes, each illustrating an "ideal of life", which occupy everyday life in place of other, more significant or poetic ideals. The comedic acting, quick rhythms, grimaces and the carnevalesque feeling of the show are all elements that contribute to the desensitisation of audiences to the perks and falls of life, strangely entertaining them with black comedy of its innevitable ending, but at once offering the shared universality of a more objective distance.
But how inclusive is this, really? The answer depends on the show’s capacity to marry two seemingly competing messages: life itself as the ultimate ideal (’the realism of everyday life’), and an illustraion of forgetting the greater questions (’the idealism of poetry’). Happily, this is left as a question and not directly answered for us, leaving space for the spectator to contemplate (and, for that matter, the critic – and with some more time I’m sure we would have rigorously debated it at our critism workshop).
A key problem of the performance is its appearance of suggesting that, if there is something universal about people, it’s their primal animalism of eating-mating-dying, together with our hyper-competion about being the first and best in all of the above. Funnily enough, the pursuit of ideals themselves make individuals ’less normal’, and even though unlike physical characteristics these are optional (but not always consciously chosen), ability and age places them outside the walls. Have you seen Don Quixote? participates in ideas of inclusion, whilst also making a quick carnival joke on its impossibility (and I don't mean the terrible education-wise context it has in Serbia nowadays).
An attempt to give definite answers on the fragile balance of the relationship between uniformity, tolerance and, well, being more than an animal, feels akin to dismissing the key point of ambiguity of the performance. Maybe it’s enough to bring attention to it - to avoid the position of hero, and simply ask a question, before smilingly sinking into the safety of the well-entertained crowd.