Dalibor FORETIĆ, theatre critic
The married couple Iva and Petar Mandić from Sarajevo have been creating plays in their apartment for two years now, in which they create a fantastic, surreal, poetic stage reality by combining masks and their own bodies
Only the journalistic tendency to start the story with the most bizarre, most astonishing fact justifies this beginning of the story of one theatre: there were two young people, they loved each other, got married, and then they decided to dedicate themselves to theatre, to create their own theatre. They did not find any social support, and they had (unlike many other young people) a slightly larger apartment. And in one larger room, they started experimenting, making masks and puppets, making costumes themselves, choosing music…
The story has been going on for two years now, it is happening in Sarajevo, which did not flinch much at its unusual fellow citizens. The protagonists of the story are called Iva Kostović-Mandić and Petar Mandić. She is a theatrologist, he a ballet dancer. They named their theatre Maska i Pokret. Last year they performed at MESS. They did not receive the official award. This year they are stuffed into the informative section. We say Sarajevo doesn’t like them much, and maybe it doesn’t understand them, even though they are doing the most authentic theatre that has happened in that city in the last ten years. But that’s why they love them in Amsterdam. No one is a prophet in his village…
Two years of work, two plays. Forty minutes each. First, Somebody has killed the Play is ambiguous and hard to explain, like any real poetry. Through the character of the puppet Agava, the Mandić’s actually embody the eternal call of a poetic nature: sublime, beautiful, supple, plucked by people, beheaded, buried with all honours and then betrayed, poetry, seen through the ironic sidetracks of life and faced with death, remains what it is, spiritual, the metaphysical constant of every existence.
Already in that first play, the Mandić’s expressed their theatrical manifesto: a belief in the poetic essence of theatre, in the challenge of its eternal mystery, by not using a word but what is at the very core of theatrical origins – mask, music, movement.
If their first play is shrouded in a veil of metaphysics, if it follows what poetry was and is, their second play, Mme Leopoldine’s Memoires, focuses on a psychological descent into dramatic secrets of life: loneliness, a cruel lack of love, selfishness which leads the human being towards the ritualisation of his own life and towards ultimate plunge into his own ego.
The poetic weft of both plays is obvious, but they are eminently dramatic poetry: although they do not utter a single word in these two plays, they develop and complete a purely dramatic form with other, inexhaustible theatrical means.
This is how the Mandić couple with self-denial and from their theatrical home theatre achieves an autochthonous stage expression but also opens, not only on a Yugoslav scale, some new theatrical possibilities. The poeticity of the utterance and the consistency of the concept take them further than those often stuttering avant-garde attempts in which word avoidance was often a protruding dogma unsubstituted with anything else, more true, more vivid, more scenically relevant.
The formal perfection of Maska i Pokret theatre performances gives full dignity to their only seemingly modest and lapidary theatrical attempts. In the technique of their stage expression, fascinates in fact the most that at no point do they try to deceive the viewer with any illusion, and on stage these two people in the heat of the play still create a wonderful poetic world: neither mask, nor movement, nor music, nor puppets have semantic autonomy in their performances, only by intertwining their expressive possibilities, a new, uncopied from reality, but therefore exactly deeper stage reality is being realised.
With the Maska i Pokret Theatre, the theatre went in an unexplored direction beyond the touching simplicity of Peter Schumann and his “bread and puppet.” And in assembling a new stage reality, the two young Sarajevo theatre artists may be on the trail of that stage miracle that Craig once called an “Übermarionette”.
Photographer: Drago Šoštarić
Photo: Unbridled imagination Two scenes from the play Somebody has Killed the Play
Photo: Iva Kostović-Mandić and Petar Mandić at the end of the performance
Photo: Mme Leopoldine and her ego