The first thing to be noticed is that experimental work of Iva and Petar Mandich (having in mind the field of interest in their first production “SOMEBODY HAS KILLED THE PLAY”) has gone in a quiet unexpected direction.
In the beginning of their work, the masks carried more or less clearly defined allegoric connotations. They were representatives of Evil, Fertility, Aggression, Curiosity, Gluttony , and so on. The origin of these allegoric figures was a kind of private mythology compiled from their own dreams as mu¬ch as from various well-known mythologies. Thus, the reali¬ty of the performance was created from an attempt to find the roots of the mythical concept in the world of their own sub- consciousness: the story, its meaning and artistic exp¬ression of the masks.
The dance-movement was used to deter¬mine the relations between the characters and they were ba¬sed on the primary instincts: hatred, aggression, attraction. There could not be any subtle psychological relations among the “mythological” characters. Everything belonged to the sub-consciousness, which showed its ancient character merging with its legitimately demonstrated correlative – mythical dimension of the worlds.
But although the performance aspi¬red to deal exclusively with the archetypal situations, it was by no means naive. There was a visible critical detach¬ment from the story of Agava (a paradigm of Poetry and Nature ), manifested in the authors’ paternalizing emotion to¬ward this mask. Agava is the constant object of aggression, but whenever destroyed she rises from the ashes of her being and that ability to resist the destructive nature of the world enjoyed both authors’ and audience’s sympathy. Control of consciousness upon the topic was noticeable, and the end of the performance brought the authors’ comment: the character of The Flying One, the man with glasses and an attaché-case, is observing the ruins of the old world with a superficial interest, incapable of noticing the tragedy of events that preceded his arrival.
The principle of the imitation in the creation of the mask was consistently avoided. The masks were not individualized, they didn’t show psychological structure of the character, because the character and psychology were not essential for these masks. The faces of masks were shaped by rough lines. Agava’s predestina¬tion to be a victim was embodied by gently carved white colored features of the face and by the red color of the mantle. In order to express aggression and evil, the authors used violently opposed colors: the green mask with a big red mouth cut, or – the face cut into two halves; the whole figure reduced only to a head, etc. Even the figure of the man in black suit with a bow-tie, glasses and attaché-case fo¬llows the non-imitative principle: his appearance shows nothing individual or particular, he is not a character, not even a type but rather an allegoric figure symbolizing the Modern Age with its spirit of a touristic, petty, destructive Curiosity.
A significant change in the work of “MASKA I POKRET” occurred in their production “Mme LEOPOLDINE’S MEMOIRES”. That change emerged, first of all, on the level of meaning of the performance. The authors’ basic intention was no longer to show a mythical, uni¬versal, impersonal image of the world, as it was the case in their first show. In LEOPOLDINE they deal with one particular indivi¬dual destiny. The story of LEOPOLDINE is to such extent an individual case, that it would not be poetically relevant without the artificial meaninigs of the mask and stylized movement – neither as a theme nor as a subject-matter; it would not function on a level of general and it would disappear into formlessness of reality. The authors were, however, aware that the mask of Leopoldine cannot represent an individualized character except vi¬sually.
When moved, brought into relations with other masks and turned into an active force, a mask can appear either as a stock -character or as a symbolic figure.
/In the show “SOMEBODY HAS KILLED THE PLAY”, as we have seen, it can also be a carrier of the allegorical meaning. /
Iva and Peter Mandich were not enga¬ged in stock-characters in any of their shows. For a stock-cha¬racter is marked by a few basic characteristics of the represen¬ted social group (a boasting soldier, a stingy richman, the whole series of Commedia del Arte characters ), and none of the masks in their performance carried meanings which would in any way be found on the level of social reality.
Thus, the conclusion is that their masks are symbolic figures.
This is why Leopoldine is a symbol as well, a symbol of human separation from the outer world, a synonym of loneliness. And the new quality in LEOPOLDINE is brought by the impression that the mask has an INNER LIFE. Already in its visual aspect it has an expression of dominant psychic state. As that expression is fixed and does not change as in the case of a live actor, the dance-movement got a new function as well. In the first performance it was showing the relations between characters, and these relations were roughly demonstrated (as aggression, fight, triumph).
In LEOPOLDINE the psychological va¬lue of the mask’s life was varied and nuanced by the dance -movement. Leopoldine, whose main expression is sorrow, manages to suggest joy in the scene of meeting with her alter ego, sis¬ter Emilia.
Of course, the mask doesn’t possess any inner life. It is a skilled directing of the spectator’s attention to the sensual value of the performance, to the presence of the mask and of the dance-movement, and eliminating of impression that the mask is denoting something else, something abstract, thus becoming – in the way in which an allegory functions – partly that abstraction itself. The mask in LEOPOLDINE is opaque, it is the “providence of general in the individual” – a symbol. The cho¬ice of the basic “mood” of the mask is the authors’ decision by which they are suggesting the emotional relation of the spectator toward the character and action.
In other words, by that act they suggest to the spectator a particular world-outlook. That feel within the spectator is caused by a symbolic dimen¬sion of the performance; the masks are to such extent artifi¬cial compared to the context of reality – to the realistic theatrical space and the audience, that the performance does not appear as a part of that world, its mirror or comment, but as a possible (or the only possible) image of that world.
What are the man and human life reduced to in LEOPOLDINE? Leopoldine is persistently and vainly cleaning the stain on the floor, laying the birthday table, she is disturbed in it by the Nephew (a representative of the intrusive outer world), she is expecting some dear guest who later appears in her own shape. In the end the guest vanishes (Leopoldine packs Emi¬lia in the suitcase – or the other way around) and leaves a stage. Where? Maybe to death.
Something similar to a psychopathological phenomenon of the shirking consciousness occurs in the spectator’s perception. The whole reality is being reduced to the repetition of the sa¬me action (clearing the stain ), to the monotonous stage move¬ments that seem to diminish the entire life-space to a couple of square meters. Thus the reality of life-movement becomes re¬lative, because Leopoldine (or Emilia), in front of the spectator became a non- alive object that can be packed in a suit¬case as any other object.
The performance “OVERTURE FOR A REQUIEM” is a step ahead in the elaboration of the system discovered in “Mme LEOPOLDINE’S MEMOIRES”. It represents the most important project of Iva and Petar Mandich up to now. Many more faces appear in the performance, the stage-design has gained in importance, the music has been composed on the base of imaginary scenes, and, what is most important, the plot has become an important part of the action.
At first, Sebastian, the main mask, seems to be a character from the contemporary world and that the whole plot is going to enlicht his intimate life. Even from the surface of the action, it is possible to conclude that this is a homosexual relationship, of which the psychoanalytical roots are being analyzed throughout the play. The truth is that the whole plot is being reduced to a few meetings of Sebastian and Gustav In A Stripped Suit, connected by a few in-between-scenes. Still, the relation¬ship between Sebastian and Gustav is not only homosexual.
As in the example of “Mme LEOPOLDINE’S MEMOIRES” the realistic and psychologically motivated story is transformed by the presence of symbolic elements and acquires a more complex meaning. As in LEOPOLDINE, the stage is set so that it suggests the microcosmos. In THE REQUIEM, a few space points suggest the space of the whole possible world for those characters.
On the left side of the stage, there is a small space, separated by a screen, in which Gustav receives the persons he wants, and where he retires when he doesn’t take part in the action of the play. Sebastian cannot enter that part of the stage and his entire striving is being exhausted by his desire and trying to enter it.
Far away from Gustav’s “home”, on the right side of the proscenium, is the space in which are being held the scenes between Sebastian and the mag¬nified mask of his mother (by this difference in size of the mask the retrospective has been created in the easiest way).
In the past, Sebastian was obsessed by the attraction for the diminished Gustav’s doll, and Mother persistently prevented his inclination. It seems, because of jealousy.
The central space is empty. There is only point that stands out with two pillows on it. That is where the scenes of Seba¬stian and Gustav’s encounters take place. The scene is free from the superfluous stage details, almost empty. The only details distinguished in that free space are the thrown away remains of some previous characters – plastic halves of skulls, spread on the floor and long, narrow, white curtains – intimate details exhibited in the public space.
From the end of the middle part of the stage toward the proscenium, still in the same mise-en-scene, emerge the characters of The Women In Black, representing some kind of chorus, Parcae, representatives of the banal and ritual aspect of life, the characters of midwives and undertakers.
A wedding table is put in the middle of the stage in the course of the performance, which becomes a catalogue in the following scene. So, the table represents both things, being the place of sensual pleasure in the same time.
Human life has already been demystified by the organization of the space. The only thing from the past that remained in Sebastian’s memory is that his mother did not allow him to play with the diminished Gustav figure’s doll. At present, Sebastian hopelessly tries to make a contact with Gustav and to exceed it by another contact, with a woman. This last at¬tempt of a life solution is shown in the performance by identifying of funeral and wedding. In the moment when by the undoing of Mother’s hair her symbolic death comes, The Women In Black are dressing Sebastian in a funeral suit, the act which is immediately followed by the wedding scene where the same suit is used as a wedding suit.
What else can happen in a hu¬man life? Sebastian will be defeated by the unsuccessful attempts to make Gustav love him. In a moment of resignation and dream, he’ll see the vision of Harlequin With A Marionette, the symbol of art and a sort of Gustav’s pendant. This will bring an instance of joy, but a joy which is outside Sebastian’s main existential interest. Art is obviously an aspect of a “pleasure for no purpose”, and has no practical use or really existential substance.
The human contact is being realized on the bases of mutuality, on the exchange of the spontaneous response.
In the moment when Sebastian manages to get into Gustav’s space, the illusion (or truth) of the importance of the attempt to make that contact is vanishing: Gustav is only a lifeless doll and Sebastian dies – in the symbolic sense just because of that fact. Right after the sexual intercourse between Sebastian and Gustav-doll, The Women In Black find him as a corpse and prepare him for a post¬humous bath which is the end of the performance.
The meaning of the performance can be understood in two ways: it can be a story of an unrealized contact between two people, or a conclusion that the contact can never be realized because of the make-up of the human nature, or maybe the make-up of the world.
The impoverished image of human life is attained not only by reducing of all life spaces to a few essential ones, all events to a few remembered ones, and all attempts to their most indispensable ones, but by condensing the numerous human characters to a couple of their representatives. Except for Sebastian and Gustav, the only others appearing in the performance are Sebastian’s Bride With Naked Breast, Gustav’s Lady In A Green Dress, Sebastian’s Four Meter Long Hair Mother, Harlequin With A Marionette and Four Ladies In Black.
The world is formed from a few isolated, incompatible, lonely persons destinies. Even that con¬densed human world is divided: Gustav and Lady In A Green Dress and Mother on the side as characters belonging to reality to a greater extent, then Sebastian, The Bride With Naked Breast and Harlequin who cannot fit into it. There is another classification among them – to the subjects of life or the objects of manipulation. Gustav and Sebastian represent the first aspect, The Bride and The Lady In Green – the second. Still, in that world no one is realized as a complete individual thorough medium of life.
In this, as well as in previous performances, the music was very important. Here it was music composed by Vladimir Kostivic who created it in a close cooperation with the authors, according to the imaginary scenes. Musical numbers are mostly electronic, with the exception of one with the voice and classical guitar. Vladimir Kostivic music has another characteristics besides being functional: it added to the scene, sometimes even commented it. He managed to ironize the classical form of fugue or paraphrase of requiem, inserting parallel ironical tonality – high vocal of a folk- realistic color, or the drums that disturb the solemn tone of the basic theme.
In that way the music is not only formal but essential part of the performance as well.