A MONOLOGUE FOR MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN
By Ivana Sajko
Première December 12, 2014 at Cankarjev dom
Running time 1 hour 30 minutes, no interval.
WHAT I SAW
They continue. We see them again, and again, in flashes of this half light, hunched, tense, trying and failing to keep quiet: they are refugees, fleeing in the night.
The lights come up fully, revealing, surprisingly, 3 additional bodies onstage. On a high platform stage right is a drummer. Directly opposite him, a pianist. Upstage, on the highest platform of all, wearing a long flowing blue gown with mermaid material, and sporting short spiky blonde hair and a domineering attitude, is a woman. She is like a more regal, or maybe a grown up, version of Mary Martin’s Peter Pan – androgynous, powerful, but less sprightly, less innocent. She speaks to us – tells us a story of taming a bull and spitting in his face. The huddled forms from earlier prove to be a group of young folk, who clearly adore her. They call her “mom.” They come downstage to a series of microphones evenly dispersed along the stage’s lip, and sing a rock song about how awesome she is. They are dressed as caricatures of Europeans, or perhaps as people aspiring to be Europeans. They’re all in black, and several wear fedoras. Lots of stripes, some healthy mustaches.
Then someone appears. The Colonel. The Colonel is a character never seen, positioned somewhere above the audiences’ heads, but the woman, Europa, speaks to him for the rest of the play. He is old, rusty, with a metal jaw that clanks heavily while he walks. Upon his approach, her children jeer and groan. They are clearly not fans. They sing a song about how much he sucks.
Europa speaks. She calls the Colonel an asshole and tells him to leave, but he doesn’t. And so, she reminds him, and tells us, the story of their past.
When Europa first met this man, she was young, and he was old already. She was thrilled that he picked her out of the bunch. He was very wealthy, and he gave her everything she wanted, needed and more – chocolates, vanilla, nice clothes, power, fame. He made her large with sweets, and was gone often: fighting in and winning more and more wars. Over time his people grew to hate him, as the wars had a great cost on them. Eventually, to save herself, Europa made the Colonel leave. She regrets this choice and misses him horribly. She is a heartbroken woman.
This monologue is interspersed with songs from the kids, primarily, though Europa sings a ballad or two as well. The children’s songs are forward-looking, always: they energetically, humorously throw insult after insult on the Colonel, heaps of love on Europa, and rock out about how awesome life is now that the Colonel is gone.
At the play’s close, Europa names these children as her own. They came to her as a result of the Colonel’s wars – refugees seeking shelter. They love her and she loves them. She is grateful to the Colonel for them, if nothing else. The play ends as it begins, with these children in the half light, in a boat, in the dark, heading toward Europe’s shores.
WATCH A TRAILER FOR EUROPE:
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size: 8 (3F, 3M, 2 musicians)
Touring Size: cast of 8, 2 technicians, 3 escorts, 13 in total
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 5m, 7m, 9m
Load in time: 8 hours
Strike time: 1 hour
Cartage Information: Set fits in one van.
Touring History: Europe toured to The Festival Maruličievi Dani in 2014 at the Croation National Theatre, where it won the Prize for Artistic Achievement.
Translation Options: subtitles in English available
Representation: Primož Ekart, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Future: For information on future productions, please contact Primož Ekart at email@example.com.
Availability: Europe will be available for touring through Autumn of 2016, at least.
Director: Primrož Ekart
Primrož Ekart studied acting at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, University of Ljubljana (AGRFT UL). During his studies and following his graduation, Ekart performed in various productions in Slovenian institutional and non-institutional theatres. In 2005, Ekart founded Imaginarni Institute. He has received several awards for his work, including the Šeligo Award at the 42nd Week of Slovenian Drama, the Award of the Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia for the best production in the season 2011/12, among others.
Playwright: Ivana Sajko
A writer and dramaturg, Sajko is co-founder of the theatre group BAD co. and a member of the editorial board of the performing arts magazine Frakcija. She performs and directs her own texts, experimenting with interdisciplinary approaches to the problems of drama writing and performing. Sajko's books include a collection of plays, Executed Faces, a trilogy of monologues, Woman-bomb, a novel, Rio Bar, and a collection of essays, Towards the Madness (and Revolution). Recent plays have been commissioned by Steirischer Herbst Graz (Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose, 2008) and Stadttheatre Bern (Scenes with Apple, 2009). The first English translation of Woman-bomb was staged at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne.
Production Company: Imaginari Institute
Established in 2006 by the actor Primož Ekart, Imaginarni Institute (meaning, "the imaginary") is a production house producing smaller-scale theatre performances, often co-productions with other Slovene theatres and institutions. The common thread running through Imaginarni's projects is telling stories based on real people and events and telling stories of people who are forced into the margins of society. Collaborating with renowned Slovene actors, directors, musicians, and designers, Imaginarni aims to address the viewer with universal stories, confronting him to find his own position toward complex societal problematics.
WRITINGS AND REVIEWS
"..the incredible Barbara Cerar transforms the impression of being entrapped by sitting "up there" for one and a half hour into a brilliant display of performance in - all possible positions - variety of transformations; from being a naïve to a tycoon type of "I-don’t-give-a-f**k" mindset; into disappointment of a desperate housewife; an intoxication of a forgotten alcoholic; a "sweet-talking" criminal; and hoarseness of the defeated – she utilizes everything, her body language, face expressions and changing her voice. But that’s not even close to being all. The team below - the one, which ends up in a boat without the helmsman - is splendid, and so are the musicians, each individually and all together, while acting, singing or playing music.
Again we are confronted with the fact how somewhere on the horizon, without any kind of a promotion, a new extraordinary projects are created, sadly unnoticed, while the caravan makes its noise. Ekart, without a doubt, proves with this project that he is the best when addressing critical social issues; he explores such issues with a genuine sensitivity and he is not doing it for the self- promotion, perhaps that's the reason for his innovative form and his selection of perfect ensemble."
-Tanja Lesničar Pučko, daily newspaper Dnevnik
"Barbara Cerar is extremely convincing. Despite the fact that she sits on a lifted box positioned in the middle of the stage her monologs are fierce, full of dribbling with different emotions and disappointments, while sharing her first mythical appearances and reciting fragments of laws and conventions. Although partly limited in her acting because of the envisioned form, it's her performance that connects the play together and attracts the attention. Her monolog is not only accurately parsed but also fierce, either when talking about the pain of losing or when confessing about not so glorifying moments from her personal history. Europa is wild, controversial and on moments fierce play." -Matej Bogataj, Sodobnost
"The performance is surprisingly dynamic on a micro-level where something is constantly going on and in the same time powerful in its atmospheric impact where the static form only contributes to the ideological basis."
-Anja Radaljac, daily newspaper Delo
REFLECTIONS BY KELLIE
I was speaking to a Slovenian journalist about the way in which Americans are always looking forward, never back, and the problems this presents us. He said, “Europeans have the exact opposite problem: we’re always looking back, always nostalgic for better times. There were no better times.” This was a helpful conversation to have had before watching Europe: A Monologue for Mother Courage and Her Children: the piece is in part critiquing this very idea, by personifying Europe as a heartsick woman, and the Europe of old as the cruel lover she can’t forget.
Embodied metaphor is the central theatrical tool of this piece, and it is well executed. To spend an evening watching Europa pine after this old rusty man, who she has clearly given up, but against her will, allows us to both empathize with and criticize her plight. I see the problems of always looking back, and the problems that could arise from doing so, but cannot blame her for her attachment. And what a compelling contrast, to have her children willfully denying Europa’s true feelings for this man who caused them so much devastation and heartache. They too are rife for critique, and pitiable. It is a play and production that loves all its characters as It points out their significant flaws.
It is moreover successful despite the fact that it does not rely on any narrative arc or character journeys. Very little happens in this play, and no character changes over the course of it. Rather, the drama comes through revelation, as we learn more about who these characters are, what their relationships are to one another, and what they represent. This structure increases its power: in the act of revealing, truths of a country and its past are revealed to us. Truths that perhaps the audience already knows, but because they are made human and dramatic, they are able to be understood on a human level. We can then pity a country, a people, in the same way we do a person.
If I had one critique, it would be in the casting of Barbara Cerar as Europa. The script calls for her to be large, bloated with sweets given to her by her beau, powerful in her size. This Europa was powerful, for certain, but also small: pixie-like, even. Costume design and her placement on her high pedestal helped increase her scale, but still, one wonders why a larger, perhaps more mature woman (this Europa was also relatively young) wasn’t cast in the role. Slovenia seems to suffer from similar female body issues that we do in the states: all actress are beautiful, young, and slim, unless they are grandmotherly. But her talent can't be denied, nor can the strength of this production. It was, overall, a lovely, powerful, and timely piece of theater.