Based on the novel by Gustav Flaubert. Adapted by Nebojša Pop-Tasić
Première April 15, 2015
Running time 1 hour 45 minutes. No interval.
WHAT I SAW
Though Madame Bovary is presented in one of the more traditional theatrical spaces in the Slovene National Theatre Maribor, with a plush, ornate audience space and proscenium stage, our seats are on the stage itself. On small, tightly packed chairs, we settle in as the cast plays a jazzy easy-listening tune: a woman on the piano, a man on drums, another on a microphone “da da da”ing the melody. Onstage are an equally plush oriental rug, an ornate couch, and other smaller accoutrements. The percussionist is the only person onstage in contemporary clothes, with an array of sound equipment surrounding him. He is positioned just off the stage space, in our line of sight but on the periphery. There is a child-sized chair where Mr. Bovary eventually resides, and a toy rocking horse nearby.
As the play begins, one of the actors, playing a priest, offers a summary of the entire plot of Madame Bovary. The cast listens along with us. He describes our heroine’s marriage to her unsuspecting cuckold of a husband, her two affairs with younger men, and the subsequent death of both husband and wife. He also offers his interpretation of the tale: it is a story of a morally base woman and the evil she inflicted on the world. “Loathsome, bad and contemptible, a woman of insatiable desires, a monstrous creature with a perverted imagination… Emma Bovary, the name that is an insult to the female species,” he proclaims.
Next, Emma Bovary speaks. She offers a different, more nuanced interpretation:
“Life is a dictionary full of scattered, unsorted words that we are trying to understand and put into an intelligible form… I resemble a fly: my humming always reminds someone of something... I cannot say I am, because I do not know who I am. After having been commented upon for over a century, it is really hard to determine who you are.”
And with this, the tale begins again. Emma is our narrator, living the story as she tells is, and a cast of four supports her narration: one man plays her husband, two, a chorus of lesser characters, and the fourth plays all her lovers and admirers. The piece unfolds in non-realistic fashion that incorporates multiple theatrical tools to tell the tale. For the most part, scenes do not play out realistically, but theatrically, getting at the emotional rather than visual truth of each moment. Scenes are at times a chaotic dance, at times a rock concert (when actors get on microphones and narrate to drumbeats), and sometimes deathly still.
For example, when Emma meets Mr. Bovary for the first time, she watches him ride away on his horse. Said horse is actually a toy horse, and Mr. Bovary goes nowhere. He rocks back and forth, back and forth, with a big smile plastered on his face, waving and waving like an animatronic dummy in an old Disney World Ride. Emma waves back, transfixed, as her father tells her Mr. Bovary wants to marry her. Emma breaks this trance with a scream, “I said YES!” and the cast jumps up, screaming, rushing, whirling around the stage, dressing Emma in her wedding veil, dancing, hugging, screaming more, until the “wedding” is over and the Bovarys are left alone, in silence. Later, Emma’s first affair unfolds similarly: as they discuss something inane, Rodolphe undresses Emma and throws her around the space with such passion and speed that the affair begins and ends in minutes.
Also noteworthy is the scene in which Mr. Bovary takes Emma to the opera. Here we see the reason we are seated onstage – Emma and Mr. Bovary sit in the audience for this scene, while the opera occurs onstage with us. Emma returns to the stage for her second affair, with Leon, a man she met at the opera. They each take a microphone and encircle each other slowly, getting ever closer, their microphone wires more and more entwined. All the while, Mr. Bovary stays in the audience seating, watching. Mr. Bovary watches everything that occurs throughout the piece, but the use of audience seating places emphasis on his act of watching – his passive complicity.
As the scene ends, Emma lays down on top of her latest lover, and the other two men call Mr. Bovary onto the stage. “You’re dead – it’s over,” they tell him. Mr. Bovary then delivers a monologue taking the blame for Emma’s actions: he was too small, too innocent, allowed too much to happen, and for this, he is at fault. He cradles his wife’s body.
She begins to move. She takes a microphone, sings the melody he sang to us at the top of the show, (those lovely ‘da da das’), and he smiles. The play ends.
(please note, this performance requires a password. The password is "bovary")
WATCH THE TRAILER FOR MADAME BOVARY:
NUTS AND BOLTS
Cast size: 5 performers (1F, 4M)
Touring Size: Cast of 5, 9 technicians (14 total).
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 4m, 7m, 12m
Load in time: 9 hours
Strike Time: 5 hours
Cartage Information: Entire set can fit in a small truck
November 16-17, 2015 - Gledališče Park, Murska Sobota (Theatre in Murska Sobota, Slovenia)
Translation Options: subtitles in English available.
Representation: Neda R. Bric, general manager SNG Nova Gorica,
+386 (0)5 335 2210
Availability: Madame Bovary is available for touring until at least spring of 2017.
Director: Yulia Roschina
Roschina studied Theatre Directing at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, University of Ljubljana (AGRFT UL). Since then, she has staged several operas and one-act operas as well as an opera for children in collaboration with the Slovenian Chamber Music Theatre in Cankarjev dom. She also staged Tomaž Svete’s opera for children, POMEGRANATE, in the Slovene National Theatre Maribor. She authored the projects PHAEDRA BEFORE AND AFTER r in Tartini Theatre, ALL THE LOVES OF PHAEDRE in Glej Theatre and WE.ARE.ONE in Dance Theatre Ljubljana. She has also directed several children’s performances and actively took part in Rok Biček’s movie CLASS ENEMY as Assistant Director.
Dramaturg: Nebojša Pop Tasić
Nebojša Pop-Tasić, dramaturg, playwright, musician and performer, was born in Zemun (Yugoslavia), in 1962. Until 1990, he lived in Pančevo, a small town near Belgrade. In 80’s he played in the punk-band ’Unrest babies’. From 1984 to 1992, Pop-Tasić worked as a journalist and editor for the local newspaper and radio Pančevo. In 1989, he enrolled as a student of cultural management and theatrical production at the College of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. He founded a secret ecological society, ’Black leaf’; in this period (1989-1992), producing mostly street eco-performances. In 1992, at the beginning of the bombardment of Sarajevo, Pop-Tasić left Serbia and moved to Slovenia (Maribor) where he set up the bands Gipsy jazzbina, Romano Rai, and Karlo Jederman. In 2004, Pop-Tasić moved to Ljubljana, and now works for all Slovenian theatres. For his work as dramaturg and playwright, he has received several awards. Pop-Tasić recorded two CD’s: Karlo Jederman and Pope Loves You. He also writes satirical columns for the newspaper Večer.
Theatre: Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica
Theatre creativity in Nova Gorica started in 1955 when the semi-professional Gorica (City) Theatre was established. The theatre became fully professional in 1969 and changed its name to Primorsko dramsko gledališče. Between 1972 and 1991 the theatre organized the festival Gorica Meeting of Small Stages (later Alpe Adria Theatre Meeting), which greatly influenced the development of the theatre and its affirmation in the national and international theatre circles. In 1994, a new theatre building with modern stage equipment was built and in 2004 the theatre was declared an institution of national importance and is now fully subsidised by the state. It also changed its name to Slovensko narodno gledališče Nova Gorica (Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica).
The theatre's importance and its programme and artistic orientation are vastly influenced by its geographical position – Nova Gorica lies on the junction of Slavic and Romance cultures.
The repertoire consists of modern texts and classics, and is at the same time marked by the local, Mediterranean tone and the openness to research and experiment. The Mediterranean note, characteristic for this part of Slovenia, can be perceived in both the choice of texts, especially comedies, and in the stagings – in their dynamics, hot-blooded character, dialect hues and very often in their atmospheric open-air performances. The openness of the ensemble (its permanent full-time members are often joined by guest actors) and the choice of directors make modern approach to theatre art and research possible.
The high artistic level of production is proved by a number of awards received by the actors and other artists, participation at Slovene and international festivals and tours abroad – on stages of ex-Yugoslavia, Europe, Russia and Latin America. In 2001 the SNG Nova Gorica joined the European Theatre Convention (ETC), an international theatre association, which organises a biennial theatre festival. Thus in 2004, SNG Nova Gorica organised the theatre festival MEJ NI FEST (Theatre Without Borders) which was also the final event of the ETC project Theatres in Europe: Mirror of displaced populations. SNG Nova Gorica is also a founding member of the New European Theatre Action (NETA), an international network of theatres and festivals.
WRITINGS AND REVIEWS
BEAUTY is the strongest dimension that I took home from the Nova Gorica Theatre that unforgettable night. BEAUTY, not just for the eyes, though for them too, but beauty for my soul that was being fed feelings directly from the stage. A heart-rending show.
The Nova Gorica Madame Bovary is a performance full of emotion, energy, dynamics, set on a minimalist but very telling scenery. Emma's story is not a story of love, but of longing for love, and judging by the enthusiastic response, the impact on the premiere audience was strong.
Ingrid Kašca Bucik, Radio Koper
By all means a fresh new view of Emma Bovary which does not condemn her but instead approaches her from the unconscious, emotional side; everything happens in an intimate atmosphere where no movement is lost, neither on the actor nor on the spectator.
Lejla Švabič, rtvslo.si
The production, though written over material that is itself somewhat less than dramatic, achieves some clean, strong, energy-laden scenes; but first and foremost it is a retelling, in a chamber indeed nearly living-room setting of a really minimalist stage, of Emma's downward slide …
Matej Bogataj, Delo
Explanation of awards received at the Maribor Theatre Festival:
YULIA ROSCHINA – Borštnik Award for Directing 2014/2015
In this staging of Madame Bovary, Yulia Roschina carries out a directorial approach that is unique both in aesthetics and content. She enters the story passionately and with a strong stance in which she bravely and innovatively focuses on the diversity and depth of the stage language. She consciously equally invests both her common sense and her heart in the staging, the climate of the stage action especially distinguishes her personal, sincere and confident relation to the content. The directorial concept exquisitely balances the sensibility and brutality and critically poses the questions about the historical and contemporary situations and the (dis)empowerment of women as well as men. In this the theatre mechanisms are "laid bare”, before us is a stage event that seemingly hides nothing, yet despite that remains attractive and unpredictable to the last moment.
ARNA HADŽIALJEVIĆ – Tantadruj Award for Best Actor 2014/2015
Arna Hadžialjević shapes Emma Bovary, the literary synonym for the feeling of discontent, frustration of dreams unfulfilled, by further sharpening the transition outlined by Nebojša Pop Tasić’s adaptation of Flaubert’s novel – namely, transition away from the moralist view of a representative of social power into the very heart of the intimate world of a woman who is insatiably longing to be liberated from everyday life, dull and far removed from pretty illusions. She follows the initial trial with a smile on her face, as yet from a distance, but soon turns into a tangle of intensely throbbing emotional vegetation – shown in carefully measured coagulations of passion, subtle nuancing of thrill at the prospect of getting close to the thing desired, accurate gradation of elation, but also pain of descent from the faded projections of own longing back into the suffocating reality of her marriage.
Her picture of Emma is one unstoppable search of fulfilment bred on utopian imagination and destroyed by contacts with reality, thus speaking about a fundamental human disharmony.
VITO WEIS – Borštnik Award for Young Actor 2014/2015
In the production of Madame Bovary, Vito Weis embodies the two lovers of Emma Bovary, Léon and Rodolphe, and in his interpretation brings numerous shades of the male temperament. His roles carry distinct layers that are full of the effectively captured paradoxes; he is measured and prudent in dispersing gentleness, cruelty, instinct. His performance is integrated, solidly saturated both physically and mentally, with which it elicits its own erotic energy that does not need nudity and excess in order to shock and move, but penetrates through the actor’s clear thought and a deep awareness of his own body.
ARNA HADŽIALJEVIĆ – Severjeva Award for acting achievemenst, also for Emma Bovary
Arna Hadžialjević sees her Emma Bovary as a fragile yet also cunning housewife, loaded with unfulfilled yearning and boredom. We observe how she prepares her escapades and adventures – while daydreaming about the Saviour and reading of knights on horses. Arna creates an Emma that gradually turns from a giggling unexperienced girl (with satirical undertones) that gladly obeys to authority, into a woman uncapable of controlling her emotions and desires. The actress carefully guides her character from a provincial femme fatale and fragile sentimental being to woman grown to disappointment who sees death as the only solution to her unbearable life.
REFLECTIONS BY KELLIE
This piece had a great sense of play and energy. Most successful were the moments where we see Emma act quickly, impulsively, with little thought. In these moments, the cast whirls around us, taken up by a kind of unstoppable force: Emma’s youthful impulsive actions physicalized. This Emma is propelled by a pulsing, throbbing energy, fueled by a set of romantic ideals that she aspired to experience but could never fully grasp. As Emma gets caught up, so do we: her choices feel inevitable, unstoppable in this whirling dervish of a production.
With all of this excess energy came a different kind of excess: of text, of space, of silence. Silence is an important tool when telling a story about a character who realizes her marriage is not the fairy tale she thought it would be, and at times it is well used, like in the moments after her marriage, over the dullest of dinners where Mr. Bovary describes the weather and his patients’ ills in detail. At other times, said silence is less successful, but instead feels indulgent, meant to carry great import but actually filled with dead air. The piece could use some sure-handed tightening and editing.
Similarly to the silence, there were times where the use of movement and amplification perfectly articulated the truth of a moment in a scene. At other times, it felt as though the choice for a character to perform a monologue on a microphone was arbitrary.
All in all, the piece felt ambitious and exciting, but not quite cohesive, not quite revelatory. At the play’s end, I wasn’t entirely sure why this story needed to be told at this time. Furthermore, Emma Bovary, a literary character fascinating in her complexity and unknowability, felt almost too easy to understand here, too simple and pitiable. Still, I think this is a director worth paying attention to. Paired with the right material, she could use the language of theater to extraordinary ends