All images by Gjorgi Klincarov
Adapted from Carol Churchill
Directed by Nina Nikolikj
Costume Designer: Ivana Karanfilovska Ugurovska
Composer: Aleksandar Pejovski
Set Designer: Jane Chalovski
Lighting and Video Designer: Gjorgji Klincharov
Light Operator: Saso Todorovski
Video Operator: Filip Nikolovski
Props and Subtitling: Jovan Maleski
Producer: Ruse Arsov
Youth Cultural Centre, Skopje Macedonia
What I Saw
The visual and performative aesthetic of this piece played a lot with exposure, starting with the set: all parts of the space where it was performed, the “Military Circle” performance space, were exposed to the audience, including costume racks, backstage equipment, etc, while onstage the set begins as simple table and chairs.
The performance then loosely follows Caryl Churchill’s play Mad Forest, though it was definitely an adaptation.
The performance began with the actors acting as audience to a Ceaușescu speech prior to the revolution, then becoming students in a classroom learning the traditional Romanian lessons under Ceaușescu’s regime.
Then the style switched to the more traditionally structured scenes of Act 1 of Mad Forest. Using minimal, fluid sets, live feed, projection of video from the past (the preceding events of the 1989 Revolution in Timisoara) and present (of the current situation in Macedonia), the actors played out the familial, domestic scenes of Act 1 of Mad Forest in a relatively naturalistic style, clearly taking seriously the themes of revolution, corruption, and complicity.
Act 2, also along the lines of Churchill’s script, changed course and followed several different characters in a stationary tableau as they described, radio/TV interview style (also backed up by video and live feed) the actual events of the revolution itself.
Act 3 reverted back to the original characters, playing out naturalistic scenes, punctured only first by the dream-state of re-enacting the Ceaușescus trial and execution, and then second by the final scene, the wedding of one of the sister characters, in which wedding toasts became an absurd platform for the final discussions and accusations of post-revolution Romania, ending in a huge, messy, liquid fight.
The final moments of the performance changed tone a final time, with a single video showcasing the current unrest in Macedonia.
Watch The Trailer
Nuts and Bolts
Touring Cast Size: 11 actors
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 10m, 8m, 8m - Black box German style.
Cartage information: The whole set fits in one transport van.
Translation options: Eng subtitles available
Future Performances: The performance is part of the 2016/2017 program of YCC Skopje. Dates are still not defined.
Available for touring from: 1/22/17
Representation: Nina Nikolikj (Director), firstname.lastname@example.org,
+ 389 70 205 961, Naroden front 15/27 1000 Skopje Macedonia
Writings and Reviews
Director: Nina Nikolikj
Nina Nikolikj was born in 1987 in Skopje. She graduated French Language and Literature on the Faculty of Philology Blaze Koneski and Theater Directing on the Faculty of Dramatic Arts on the University Sst. Cyril and Methodius – Skopje in 2010 in the class of Professor Slobodan Unkovski. She postgraduated on the same faculty in 2014 with the performance Eurydice staged in the Drama Theater – Skopje. At the moment she works as theater director at the Macedonian National Theater – Skopje and she works on her PhD thesis “Practical analyse of the acting approach How to stop acting by Harold Guskin with acting students on the Faculty of Dramatic Arts - Skopje”. After graduation she staged the performances: Trembling (2011) in National Cultural Center Jordan Hadzi Konstantinov Dzinot in Veles and Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood Searching for the Lamp of Aladdin (2011) in National Cultural Center Trajko Prokopiev in Kumanovo both by Dragana Lukan Nikoloski; Sex, Lies and Wild Geese (2012) based on the play Old Seybrook by Woody Alen in production of Circle Production and the Youth Cultural Center; The Pelican (2012) by August Strindberg
project of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Sweeden and the Faculty of Dramatic Arts – Skopje, Eurydice (2013) by Sarah Ruhl in Drama Theater – Skopje; Who pulled the trigger on the 21st? (2014) based on and play Mad Forest by Cheryl Churchill in the Youth Cultural Center and many other. The performances of Nina Nikolkj participated on the festifals: Open Youth Theater Festival, Dance Fest, The Festival of Antique Drama – Stobi and on the students
meeting Skomrahi. The leading actor in the performance Eurydice received the Award for Best Male Actor on the Festival of Antique Drama – Stobi. Sience 2012 she is member of the artistic council of the Open Youth Theater Festival, and was selector of the International Drama Amateur Festival – DAF in Kochani (2013).
The directors style of Nina Nikolik, according to the performances that she has already staged in the last three-four years is provocated or dedicated to the essential, deep human emotions. The base is love and whether she brings problems or not – this is what her performances speak about. That means that she is in search of one of the emanating needs/states of the human life: the love of all kinds, the love of man towards man.
Theatre: Youth Cultural Centre, Skopje (MK)
The acting is collective, composed of actors from various theatres and freelancers, completely focused on the dramatic action, i.e. on the process of mastering the tragedy, and its role as the main element around which the very performance develops. This means that, on account of the actors and their immediate acting, the classic, emotional connection with the story has been avoided, making a contemporary acting intervention in the production of the performance instead. This is a warning, affecting, breathing, and moving performance which is present in a present moment – a performance which needs to be seen.
Short video - https://vimeo.com/118232576
Long video - https://vimeo.com/120138674 (Password can be requested)
Reflections from Susan
I admittedly am not as familiar with Churchill’s Mad Forest as I am with her other plays, so I am not writing this reflection as a comparison to her play. However, director Nina Nikolikj spoke in the talkback about how they used and adapted the script as a cast, keeping scenes that were relevant, cutting things that weren’t, and reorganizing to fit their purposes of examining their own urgent governmental issues through the lens of a play written collaboratively. That we were watching it only steps away from where the actual events of the play took place in Timisoara lent a certain urgency and relevancy to the performers and their performance.
What became very clear in the talkback was the collaborative nature of the rehearsal process; Nikolikj mentioned several times how involved the actors (who hailed from four different theater companies) were in the creative process, which in many ways mirrors Churchill’s own process in writing the play originally. The collaborative nature of the piece was felt during the performance, with actors invested not only the content, but in each other and the urgency of their own situation.
The piece suffered at times from trying to make too many political statements without a lot of consideration to an overall performance aesthetic. Director Nina Nikolikj’s vision seemed to vary between serious naturalism and more Brechtian-like absurdism without ever committing entirely to either side. In addition, documentary theater has been a popular form in Eastern Europe for several years now, and like many US directors, they are figuring out how to curate a very unwieldy form (verbatim theater) into a performative aesthetic.
But, while I’m not sure I would say the piece succeeded entirely as an artistic performance, the piece felt important, which in many ways is more pertinent than aesthetic success in this piece. In the talkback, the actors were clearly very passionate about both the show and its effect on their fellow Macedonians, and in thinking about the performance from that lens, the moments of clunkiness, of aesthetic unsurety, or incohesion seemed less important than the creation of community with its audience.
These younger and older actors felt like they were seizing a moment and asking one of the most important questions during revolution (which was also to become a running theme throughout the festival): in the midst of longing for a simple, “truthful” narrative of a revolution, are any of us really free from complicity with the enemy? In the talkback, one of the actors, breaking out of the discussion of the performance, underscored the value of this type of performance by connecting the various revolutions in Eastern Europe just in the last 25 years, ending his passionate, impromptu speech with, “we keep electing the same man over and over again in a different form. Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?”