Wednesday 19 October 2016

The Oath – SNG, Maribor

[seen 17/10/16]

*Obviously,* refugees and immigration are very much the hot topic of the last year or so in European theatre; all the more so in Fortress Britain since we narrowly voted to leave the EU, for what, it has now been decided by our government, were largely racist and xenophobic reasons.

The Oath is an immigration narrative of sorts. It’s also a massive turbo-folk, karaoke, drinking party. WITH INDOOR SMOKING. [I might have quit drinking, but, my God, any piece of theatre that brings an ashtray to my table and encourages me to get smoking wins my undying love. I mean, if they’re not stopping me smoking, they can pretty much do what they like after that.]

Our two hosts – Nenad Jelesijević, Lana Zdravković – tell us the (true?) story of their move to Slovenia from Belgrade during the NATO bombings of 1999, and their subsequent love affair(s?) careers, and “assimilation” in Slovenia. It ends with their oaths of citizenship in their new country and subsequent (contingent, even) marriage.

On the surface, it’s fun, rowdy, maybe a bit sad/bitter (especially re: drinking and relationships), and camp as [insert non-worn-out-similie here].  My internal Edinburgh producer/Queer Festival curator/RVT programmer reckoned it was 9/10ths smash hit. If he’d been drinking, it would probably have been an 11. I mean, it would probably want a bit of a dramaturgical overhaul for the English market – more story, more legible jokes, bit of a rethink re: five scantily-clad female dancers (maybe. But maybe I’m just being over-sensitive there – it’s basically just a drag show, but with female performers. It’s a bit in-your-face, but maybe that’s good?) – but, yeah. I could see a revised version playing in one of those drinking tents in Edinburgh (if they can find one that allows smoking) and making a tonne of money. (Even more money if they stop giving away a tonne of free rakija.)

Underneath, well, I think I detected a mass of irony seething away under the surface glitter and ceremony, but I’d have to be a native speaker (great surtitles, though), and a better historian of the period to say for certain. Suffice it to say, I think there’s that’s immigrant’s dual sense of gratitude for having found a nice country to live in, and acknowledgement that the host country is maybe full of racist bastards who’d rather not have you there. There’s also the amusing (again, I imagine true) fact that both these “immigrant/refugees” have gone on to obtain PhDs in social and political sciences and visual and digital culture, and there’s some amusing talk of NGOs and arts council grants (which, again, I don’t think needs any translation for a UK context). (“Coming over here, adding to the sum total of human learning!”)

It’s not a show that totally resists analysis (cf. James Varney’s excellent review of the drag Return To Grey Gardens), more that I don’t think I have sufficient critical tools to do any good poking around under the chassis. Instead, I’ll leave you with some examples of the sort of music played...

[ADVICE: they *adapted* the lyrics of these songs, and they didn’t show the videos, so you might want to just listen to the music and tune out the contents of the originals (where they’re even understandable) and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T WATCH THE VIDEOS...]

[Embedding disabled by request, click to watch]

[Embedding disabled by request, click to watch]

So, yeah. Basically, anyone who wants to make the lip-synch drag version for the UK has a sure-fire hit on their hands. Would probably also do well as a late show at International Festivals (if anyone reading happens to have one of those...)

Kitch and Bunker Institute
Première: 28. 1. 2016, The Old Power Station Ljubljana
Running time 1 hour 15 minutes. No interval.

Author of concept: Kitch
Advisors: Bojan Jablanovec, Andreja Kopač, Katarina Stegnar
Choreographers: Teja Drobnjak, Evin Hadžialjević, Sara Janašković, Eva Lah, Tanja Sabol
Sound designers and transmitors: Jure Vlahovič/Rok Kovač
Music: fragments and remakes of songs by various artists
Singing instructor: Nataša Nahtigal
Costume designer: Mateja Fajt
Makeup artist: Tina Prpar
Author of space and lighting concept, graphic designer: Kitch
Lighting conductor, technical coordinator: Andrej Petrovčič
Photo-documentator: Nada Žgank
Video-documentators Urša Bonelli Potokar, Valerie Wolf Gang
Hosts: Nenad Jelesijević, Lana Zdravković
Dancers Teja Drobnjak, Evin Hadžialjević, Olivera Milašinović, Bela Pikalo, Tanja Sabol
Waiters Žan Mrhar, Gal Oblak

Photo: Nada Žgank

No comments: