"Performing V4 - Biennial of VARP-PA Residents" was an initiative by 4 performing arts
organizations from CZ, H, PL and SK, to launch a professional festival taking place every 2
years that presents the work of selected artists supported by IVF’s Performing Arts Residency
programme (VARP-PA). The project was conceived as a pilot for a potential Visegrad Performing Arts Biennial, hosted by a different V4 country every 2 years, but collectively curated by the project partners in each case.
Thursday, 5 March 2015
Echoes_Jan Bárta: STICKER by Laura Marx
If I laugh, it doesn’t mean that I'm happy.
I will start it, sorry folks, at the very end.
When the two fantastic actors, Halka Třešňáková and Jan Bárta came forward to bow at the end of the play, I was curious as hell! Curious, whether their faces would be gloomy or cheerful. This is always a substantial moment for me, when a play is over, and we are waiting for the actors to come and bow. The actors have the whole meaning of the play, the essence of the drama in their eyes by this time. Halka and Jan were sincere, serious, and exhausted. I was pleased. Why?
Sticker isn't a simple comedy about a hopeless married couple. It is about the structures, energies and aesthetics of our life, and about the extreme crossovers of these material, emotional, and ontological structures. As Jan said: „It is mostly about the games we are playing in our intimate relationships. It is based on the duality between man and woman. We tried to apply a sort of clockwork system game, through which we are showing the borders between what is usually understood as private and as public in relationships, and we are shifting this border into an extreme.”
The audience did laugh a lot, so the burlesque side of the play was successful. But what about the other sides? (There are many dramatic sides of it, as you will see.)
This play is about a couple in a room. Really.
In a Dadaist manner, the room where the play took place was deconstructed and analyzed from a rational, but at the same time dreamlike point of view.
In the middle of the stage, there is a big carpet (like in Charlie Chaplin’s movie Boxing), and objects like a vase, armchairs, a stuffed bird, shirts and a telephone are on the left and right margins of the stage (like a Max Ernst collage). If you see a room like this as a starting point of a play, you have controversial emotions and thoughts. Maybe some little child is going to playing there? Or a lovely couple will be dancing? Or a dog sleeping? Or somebody is waiting for Godot in this room? Who will be able to live in it? Who will be able to say or feel something in this fragmented space? Is it before, or is it after?
We are socialized in the world of absurd, by the aesthetics of absurd drama. We got into the habit of seeing the material world as a simple tool. Things doesn't have a soul. Maybe people doesn't have a soul either. And yes, this is the theme now.
When Hans (Jan) and Hilde (Halka) start walking around in the room, which is loosely separated to female and male sections, we see immediately that this isn't a room anymore. It is a battlefield, a neutral, skeletonized room, a symbolic space, but not to gain victory, no. They are in a cruel game which never ends, because the rules of this game are stronger than love. There is nothing finite: objects and pressure, pressure and objects, this is an ontological paradox.
The game is always the same: Hilde steps down from the carpet, where she is playing the „lady in love”, posing like an actress from the 1950s, and she stormily tries to find an object. The only thing she is thinking about is how to manipulate Hans, how to invite him back to the carpet.
Finally she chooses an object and places it on the carpet. This act is an invitation. The carpet isn't in the room (the room isn't real), it is in the society. An imagined society, Hilde's own imagined society. And Hans accepts it, who knows, why. He doesn’t have enough energy to defend himself from the future.
Private space isn't real in this context, because the two people are in a long term relationship that is based on hate (and on knowing each other so deeply), not love. The private space (and maybe love) is in the past, and there are some objects on the margins from this past. The treasures.
Come, and do something! Take this object, and try to invent something, that is a „public thing”! Something „romantic”, because public in Hilde’s eyes is „romantic”. Romantic means to her: a romantic pose. Public means: pressure. (We must think much more of the romantic idea of love, and the romantic idea of death, as in Schlegel’s, Goethe’s, or Hölderlin’s interpretation). What we have is a romantic pose without love and meaning. And objects.
The other objects are waiting in the nowhere land, on the periphery, in the past, maybe. But the past and its objects don't work: only if they (Hans and Hilde) try to pressure and force the other to do something with them in the name of the idea of marriage. This idea is as empty as the carpet.
Hans is trying to make love with the idea of his wife (in a really burlesque, tragic and ingenuous pantomime scene), full of repressed sexual energy, and in the second half of the play Hilde tries to react. But Hilde's sexuality is like the dead bird. She hasn't got ideas of sexuality, because to her, the idea of sexuality on the carpet is meaningless. (Just think a little about Foucault's book The History of Sexuality.) She is an unloving aggressor, without any kindness, and Hans is a man who hasn't got enough time to think about it. He has to run, on and off the carpet.
Hans and Hilde are two cruel observers, they can't help doing that because observing and pressuring each other is the only way to invent the next step. They haven't got their own personality or thoughts. If Hans starts dancing, or kissing, or just sitting and eating with Hilde on the carpet, they get into a trap of totally confused emotional, aesthetical and social structures. They try to catch each other, running around on the stage, as a perfect pair in the world of nihilism, and they do everything regularly. Killing is a legal step. Dancing is not.
It is a mechanical burlesque for sure, but please don't ignore the whole picture.
This play is extremely honest about sexuality, emptiness, alienation and the meaningless structures in our society. The totally meaningless aesthetical, emotional and material structures. At least cry sometimes!