All images by Uroš Hočevar
Translator Mojca Kranjc
Director Mateja Koležnik
Dramaturg Nika Leskovšek
Set designer Marko Japelj
Costume designer Alan Hranitelj
Music selection and vocal coaching Simon Dvoršak
Choreographer Magdalena Reiter
Language consultant Jože Volk
Bernd Bojan Umek
Rose Bernd Liza Marija Grašič
Christoph Flamm Andrej Murenc
Mrs. Flamm Pia Zemljič
Arthur Streckmann Igor Žužek
August Keil Aljoša Koltak
Martin David Čeh
Labourers at Flamm’s Barbara Medvešček, Manca Ogorevc, Tanja Potočnik, Igor Sancin, Damjan M. Trbovc
What I Saw
Mateja Koležnik, who was present in the showcase with two Slovenian productions, seems to have a very distinct and easily recognisable style of directing. A tight and confined space that depicts a real place but that is also as simple and neutral that it almost feels unnatural. In the case of Rose Bernd, this was a corner of a small home (or house or building, depending on the scene) with dusty pale blue walls and floors, and doors with a different hue of the same dusty blue. There is a tap in the back, also painted entirely blue. Most of the characters wear similar colours, blue, pale and uninteresting – no one stands out from the rest. The attires of the characters seem quite relevant: the dresses and haircuts of the Sixties here feel at once dated (from the perspective of the contemporary viewer) and symbolic (in the context of the play). Everyone wears wigs, except for the main character, Rose Bernd. Everyone seems to have some kind of tick or illness or disability: whether that is a hardly speaking brother who only repeats the same two words (Rose and Father, respectively) that are followed by repetitive movements of a stiff body; the paralysed wife of the mayor, Mrs. Flamm; the odd fiancé of Rose who seems out of ordinary, albeit not ill; or other parts of the community, with heads pulled into their shoulders and suspicious, spiky gaze. It’s a hostile place, where everyone wears their physical and psychological burdens on their bodies but no one ever seems to see it or care.
The performance follows the tragic story of Rose, who is torn between the married mayor that she has fallen in love with and the will of his father to marry August Keil and help settle the financial situation of the family forever. She finally agrees on marrying him, while carrying the baby of Flamm and being manipulated by Streckmann, who knows about the affair. Rose tries everything she is capable of to become the person her father wanted to raise, although soon both the family and Mrs. Flamm will find out about what has happened. Mrs. Flamm is willing to offer help to a young girl whom she thinks of as her daughter, but it is too late: Rose has killed her unborn child, as she saw no other way out.
Koležnik transposes Rose’s heart-breaking story in a generally cold, unhuman environment, while she also makes sure to accentuate that this community is a religious one: often, between scenes, on the under-lit stage the people of the town emerge as a chorus. Their movements are unison and robotic but their songs sound disturbingly warm. This does not allow us to think for one second that they, the community, would be empathetic to Rose – the harmonies are there both to contrast and to accentuate the cold ambience. Nonetheless, these songs also carry great emotional weight, as they stand for all the possibilities faith could stand for but fails both in this story and in many similar histories. Rose’s character serves as the ultimate counterpoint in the unlively world of the piece. She is a human with feelings, mistakes and vices. She is brave and hesitant, too young and too naive. In a world that does not want to understand her and that she herself does not understand, she becomes a sinner, a criminal, an outcast. In the suffocating blue world of Koležnik, she stands for all the women that were sacrificed for the comfort of others.
Towards the end of the performance, she is carried onto the stage by a tall man, mabye a neighbour. She is barely conscious but is left on the side of a window, with a scared brother shivering next to her. Some blood drips on the blue wall. She wakes up, she pulls herself together and cleans it: she begs her brother not to tell anyone. In this moment, he, a non-verbal, autistic boy is the only one who understands. In the last scene, Rose lies on the floor, maybe dead, maybe fainted, the lights go off and once again, we hear the chorus. They sing from the window behind, a lullaby or a song for a funeral, who knows. It’s a definite ending – both in the structure of the story and in the context of the performance.
Nuts and Bolts
Premiere: 6 May 2016
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. No intermission.
Partners: Celje People’s Theatre
Cast Size: 12
Rose Bernd is presented under the license of Felix Bloch Erben Agency, Berlin, Germany.
Synopsis: The play Rose Bernd was performed for the first time in 1903 in Deutsches Theater in Berlin. The author was inspired by a true story of the fifteen-year-old child murderer Hedwig Otte.
Rose is a young girl torn between her desires and the expectations of others. She has been postponing her marriage to August Keil for over three years. Her father is very eager to see through that marriage as she would move to him and their existential ordeals would be solved. The married priest Flamm is having an affair with Rose on the pretext of having a sick wife. Rose falls in love with him. Streckmann hints to her that he knows what is happening between her and Flamm. It turns out that Rose is pregnant. She therefore decides to marry August although the child is not his. A chain of unfortunate events and the wickedness of envious people bring Rose to child murder.
The story of a young woman caught in a traditional and secluded environment and punished for her unconventional and socially unacceptable acts is a poignant depiction of the doom of a young woman who wants more from life than the society to which she belongs is willing to allow her.
Reviews: "And yet the director Mateja Koležnik with her collaborators and the actors managed to create a brilliant production out of a fairly modest play, preserving through a thoroughly devised performing strategy the authenticity of the original, the freshness of relevance and a sense of thematic timelessness.”
Peter Rak, Delo, 10 May 2016
Mateja Koležnik studied Philosophy and Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the Faculty of Arts in Ljubljana and continued her education at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television in Ljubljana. She obtained a university degree in directing in 1990 with the production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party, supervised by Professor Dušan Jovanović.