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Theatrical Landscape of the Republic of Moldau

Exoticism of the Presence

by Irina Wolf

The Republic of Moldova is a young state in south-east Europe with three and a half thousand citizens. It lies between Romania und Ukraine, and came into existence after the fall of the Soviet Union. Historically it has Romanian roots. The fully national theatrical landscape is mainly localised in the capital Chişinău, which is the most densely populated city of the country with over seven hundred thousand citizens. About ten repertoire theatres with fixed ensembles, as well as the four most important theatres, two puppet theatres and a national opera and ballet theatre, which all perform in the national language Romanian, are situated there. There are also two theatres that perform in Russian, as well as a culture and art centre named "Ginte latina": "Latin origin".

There is a large theatre in Balti, the second largest town after Chişinău in the north, in Cahul in the south, and a Russian theatre in Tiraspol in Transnistria, which all complete the theatrical landscape of the country. However, Transnistria doesn't strictly count as Moldovian: the eastern area on the border to the Ukraine declared its independence in 1992, which isn't recognized internationally. The ministry of culture and tourism and the respective city governments are in charge of the theatres.

Open on Mondays!
The rigid theatre system doesn't leave much room for experiments. One can't call it a really well articulated theatre movement yet. Since the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, there have been many unsuccessful attempts of creating an independent theatre. Due to financial reasons none of them have lasted more than two years. Only recently, at the beginning of March 2009, has a free theatre opened in the cellar of one of the most important playhouses in Chişinău. The initiator of this new theatre called "Project 513" after the visiting club 513, is Mihai Fusu, who is a stage director, actor and theatre professor.

The daring aims of the 50 year old internationally committed artist have always openly displayed curiosity towards new ideas. His first attempt of a studio for contemporary drama was in 1996, and he founded the independent theatre group "actor's theatre" in 2006. The idea of project 513 is to lure the audience into coming to the theatre on Mondays, – all theatres in Chişinău are usually closed on this day – by means of recitals of poetry, readings or performances (for example Neil LaBute's "Bash").

Slave trade and other everyday problems
The METT (Mobile European Trailer Theatre) of the young author Nicoleta Esinencu should also be mentioned at this point. It is an independent theatrical group that was formed in 2007 and is seen as an international experiment, with only one premiere in Chişinău until now: The production of "Antidot" was shown in November last year as a part of the After-Fall project of the Goethe Institute. It was conceived as a somewhat exotic play in Chişinău.

Until 1991, drama and theatre life was characterised by tradition. Especially classical authors like Shakespeare, Molière, Chekhov, and Gogol were in the repertoire of Moldovan theatres. Only afterwards the works of young authors that had been forbidden were allowed to be staged, and the language of theatre averted from the metaphoric style. Nicoleta Esinencu's name is the most famous in Moldovan contemporary drama. This is not only because her plays ("FUCK YOU Eu.ro.Pa!", "Zuckerfrei", "Face control", "Moldova Camping") were performed in Germany in the last five years. Her texts are markedly politically and socially orientated and deal with topics such as discrimination and organised slave trade.

 


Further important representatives of contemporary theatre are Dumitru Crudu, Constantin Cheianu, Val Butnaru, Nicolae Negru, and Irina Nechit, who work as authors, poets or journalists. Next to Nicoleta Esinencu, Dumitru Crudu (*1967) is the most successful and productive Moldovan playwright. Several of his works have also been translated into German: "Das blutige Verbrechen aus Bad Veilchenau", "Die Wahl des Alexandru Sutto", "Das siebte Kafana"( a text that was created in cooperation with Nicoleta Esinencu and Mihai Fusu), "Niemandsmenschen", "Bratschenkonzert für Hunde". Crudu's extensive dramatic works are rooted to immediate reality. The author varies the topic of each of his plays: the barely controllable flow of media, attempts at migration and its related misery, refugee disaster, and much more.

After more than ten plays, Constantin Cheianu (*1959) has been a great success with "Im Container" and "Volodea, Volodea" (a play written in rap) with both audience and critics. The first play deals with the young generation's migration to the "success promising" West, the second one with a topic that worries several countries of the former Eastern bloc: corruption. It is therefore even more surprising that this play was performed as "Made in Moldova" in the Republic of Moldova in 2009, and in the neighbouring country Romania as "Made in Est".

The past is taboo
Although he is less known abroad, Val Butnaru (*1955) is no less active. In the past 25 years he has written over ten plays. Similar to those of his colleagues, they are based on true stories of his fellow people and inspired by local incidents. In his play "Foto mit einem unsichtbaren Clown", Butnaru reveals the crises of freedom and human dignity in a society where humility and compromises prevail. Nicolae Negru (*1948) thematises the problem of Moldovan villages ("Das Tier"), Irina Nechit's is understood as a declaration of war against the changes of the transitional period that stirs the foundation of society. However, topics like the country's Soviet past, the starvation and mass deportations are nowhere to be found. Larisa Turea (*1952), a journalist, theatre and film critic, is the first one who dared to take a step towards this direction with her "book on starvation". The survey served as a template to an audio play that was made after a reading at this year's meeting of the "Atelier for contemporary drama" (ADC). It was a daring undertaking in a country that hits the headlines with its political upheaval.

Every season, the ADC takes place in a small hall of the national theatre Mihai Eminescu and serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences, a space where contact between theatre authors and decision makers is established with the help of readings. The cooperation of actors and stage directors is also strengthened by the presence of the author. Unfortunately, during its nine year existence, none of the productions performed in the ADC have been staged in the national theatre, and other theatres take up to four years.

Progress due to individual dedication
Although national contemporary drama is present, it appears as little as possible on the repertoires of the native theatres. The directors, who also stage direct most of the plays, decline the new texts, apparently because of a lack of money or because the plays do not guarantee participation at international theatre festivals. The Satiricus Theatre, also called "Theatre of social realism", tried to change this condition. Next to national Romanian classics (like I.L. Caragiale, for example), the director and only stage-director of the theatre Alexander Grecu aimed at staging contemporary playwrights. In December 2008, the first version of the theatre's festival took place, as a result of a three year project solely dedicated to Moldovan drama. Seven texts by authors between the ages of forty to seventy were shown.

The probably most important factor than drove the development of today's Moldovan theatre scene is Petru Vutcarau. In 1991 he founded the Eugène Ionesco Theatre, where he still works as a director. Vutcarau's modern and provocative productions in a laboratory-like atmosphere, especially those of French Romanians Ionesco and Visniec, have led to an aesthetic change in the theatre scene. As an internationally recognised stage director and actor, he managed to lure actors from all over the world to Chişinău and connect the Republic of Moldova to the world scene by organising the international and extensive festival BITEI. Petru Vutcarau wasn't nominated as a candidate for the "European Theatre Prize" in 2009 for nothing.

Back to the beginning

Read more about Nicoleta Esinencu.