Sonntag, 01. August 2021

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The old heart of darkness

by Tomo Mirko Pavlovic

To Western Europe, the Balkans are the same as what the seventh room was to Bluebeard's wives: an incredible temptation. Someone curiously gazes at the locked door, behind which presumably a dreadfully wonderful secret is hidden. The golden key finally reveals a terrible, blood stained chamber, a windowless nightmare beyond any logic and without past or future. There is no explanation as to what has happened here. Whoever walks into this other forbidden room is lost and scarred for life. If against all odds someone should return to the light, shadows will haunt him and he will stay as stained as the key with which he tried to unlock the world.

Tena Štivičić intentionally chooses evil darkness for the first scene in her play "Fragile!". It is an underground room, as is given in the stage directions, "one of those bars in a cellar that is never properly aired". Michi, the Bulgarian owner of this stuffy drinking hole, once intended to make this nightclub in the centre of London "the navel of the wandering Eastern European soul".

In Michi's zone of fate
However, Michi's club – the other room, is meanwhile a soulless meeting point for the failed expatriates where breakable glass, mirrors and women have to be hard-wearing when the Balkan blues start filling the hearts. Good looking women like for example Mila, who dreams of being a musical star whilst leaning her well-shaped bottom into the guest working faces of half of the East as a bar girl. Or Marko, who pictures himself as a successful comedian and for the time being, mixes Bloody Marys in Michi's bar.

At some point Gayle from New Zealand shows up. She is a talented after worktime artist and supposedly a goody two-shoes, who is anticipating her creative break through and in search of an authentic environment and source of inspiration. While she is searching she likes to work with traumatised refugees like Tiasha who is a lost soul and wanders through European brothels as a messed-up Bosnian rape victim. She finally finds Eric in London, who is a Norwegian war correspondent and with whom she had an affair with in the war many years ago. Erik however would rather forget the time when he could still feel; in the meantime he has become a cynical media person who works for the principle of money and likes to sniff coke and sleep with Mila. The circle closes in Michi's zone of fate.

Dark luring Balkans
When Croatian author Tena Štivičić won two prizes at the Heidelberg play market two years ago, the juror and artistic director of the Theatre of Erlangen Sabine Dhein congratulated her with these words: "It is a different, shockingly new view on the youngest story of Europe, which suddenly seems so small, crowded and assessable and in which nationalities dissolve (...). By dealing with the other they try to find and sense and sense each other – regardless of what kind of passports they have in their bags. 'Fragile' is about being foreign, about the search of a home in a foreign city (...)".

There is but little to add to this: One can definitely survey "Fragile!" from a meanwhile well-known Eurocentric point of view and sense the small Eastern victims who are in search of warmth everywhere. One can also see the nationalities and illusions puff out and interpret the short trip to the dark luring Balkans (Michi's underground hole) as a nightmarish trip to Bluebeard's wives and the seventh room.