All images by Nada Žgank
Author of concept Kitch
Advisors Bojan Jablanovec, Andreja Kopač, Katarina Stegnar
Choreographers Teja Drobnjak, Evin Hadžialjević, Sara Janašković, Eva Lah, Tanja Sabol
Sound designers and transmitors Jure Vlahovič/Rok Kovač
Music fragments and remakes of songs by various artists
Singing instructor Nataša Nahtigal
Costume designer Mateja Fajt
Makeup artist Tina Prpar
Author of space and lighting concept, graphic designer Kitch
Lighting conductor, technical coordinator Andrej Petrovčič
Photo-documentator Nada Žgank
Video-documentators Urša Bonelli Potokar, Valerie Wolf Gang
Hosts Nenad Jelesijević, Lana Zdravković
Dancers Teja Drobnjak, Evin Hadžialjević, Olivera Milašinović, Bela Pikalo, Tanja Sabol
Waiters Žan Mrhar, Gal Oblak
What I Saw
The performance takes place in a studio place. The admission is slow because the two performers personally greet everyone who steps in: a man in a white suit and washed out jeans and a woman dressed in a golden bodysuit, a short fur coat and black high heels. They both kiss you on the cheeks three times and wish you a pleasant evening. We are then asked to sit around tables that face a small stage with two microphone stands and beyond which on the black wall the slogan of the evening is projected: Tonight, dreams are allowed. Tomorrow is a new day.
As we find our seats, two waiters start putting tablecloths on the tables (with the same slogan in Slovenian language embroidered in them), then they offer Rakia to all of the guests. Throughout the evening they will do refills and offer beer as well – and also water for the ones who would not like to consume alcohol or became thirsty from drinking too much of it. They will also put out ashtrays for the smokers. From the first moment on there’s music: mostly Serbian pop songs and and remixes, but also some Turbo-folk. This is a genre that both features elements of authentic folk songs from the region, usually the Balkans, respectively electronic beats and sounds.
The two performers present themselves: they both are Serbians who have fled their home country after the NATO bombed Serbia. They do not tell much more about their stories, although later on we will find out more about their alleged histories. That they have studied Arts or Literature or Media, that they wrote articles for cultural journals. They sometimes say short anecdotes about how they have managed to fit in Slovenia, about how they were praised for how good they spoke Slovenian. They both retell us the oath that they had to take when they took on Slovenian citizenship. These excerpts are short and always delivered in a very prompt and dry manner, in between two songs they sing, with under-dressed women dancers in the back, with the beats of Turbo-folk playing under. I get the sense that there is sometimes more to their stories than what I am able to understand. I get a grip of what it must mean but I can only guess – I do not know the context well enough. After each little story shared, they quickly resume the party by saying: but tonight is not about sad stories but partying, so let’s have fun!
Throughout the one hour fifteen-minute length of the show, we mostly listen to songs, the performers doing karaoke to some of them, with the lyrics in English projected behind them. At one point dancers come out: their explicit, revealing choreography looks like something one would see in the music videos of the pop and Turbo-folk songs performed or a dodgy striptease bar. Later on they will come between the tables and dance among us and with us – if we’d like to join in. They even get up on the tables and dance right into our faces. By this point, people are genuinely tipsy and relaxed and probably eager to go with it. The show ends at the highpoint, when everybody is already too drunk to realise what they are taking part in – although one cannot drink enough to stop feeling the tension that lies between the kitschy world of the pop songs and dancers and the pieces of lives presented by the performers. The irony is visibly there, as well the obvious manipulation – that you are given the chance (in the form of alcohol) to not have to think about it, or anything for that matter.
Nuts and Bolts
Premiere: 1.28.2016, The Old Power Station Ljubljana
Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes. No intermission.
Company Name: Kitch and Bunker Institute
Director(s) of Performance: Tandem Kitch (author of concept)
Cast Size: 8 or 9 (3 male, 5 or 6 female)
Touring Size: Cast of 8 or 9, 3 technicians, 2 escorts (13 or 14 total)
Minimum height/width/depth of stage: 6m, 13m, 11m
Maximum height/width/depth of stage: 8m, 15m, 13m
Load in time: 7 hours
Strike time: 2 hours
Cartage information: The set is preferred to be built on location (minimal efforts); if transported, it fits freight van. Props and costumes fits few suitcases. Drinks served during performance (including glasses) to be provided on location.
Translation options: Subtitles
Touring history: Maribor Theatre Festival (17 Oct 2016);
11 reprises in Ljubljana at Stara mestna elektrarna (from Jan. 2016 till Apr. 2017)
Future performance dates: Autumn 2017, Zagreb (venue in negotiations);
Autumn/winter 2017, Ljubljana, Stara mestna elektrarna
Available for touring from: 5/1/2017
Representation: Nenad Jelesijević, Producer, firstname.lastname@example.org, +38681710250, Tabor 8, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
Synopsis: Tonight, dreams are allowed. Tomorrow is a new day. What happens when two newcomers from the Balkans take this epic wisdom dead serious? The Oath will give you all while demanding nothing in return. Welcome to our kafana, and let the party start!
Although you will be longing for a conceptual theatrical piece, you will find yourself in an atmosphere where you will be able to relax and search for the sense, from the tablecloth on. You will enjoy the ultimate sounds of the Balkans, perhaps occasionally checking whether anyone is watching you. From the safety and convenience of your seat, you will be witnessing a tragicomic solemn act that you will most likely never have to experience yourselves. You need to attend The Oath, since tomorrow is a new day – no matter how many drinks we will have.
Reviews: "While the whole kafana dances in a wild rhythm, the questions are rising: what would have happened if its music repertoire represented Slovene songs of that kind of genre, what do the songs tell us and what are the connotations of public use of Slovene language as used by performers [they speak in Serbian, the songs are in Serbian]. The entertainment is for someone at the top, while others are sitting pinned down to their chairs thinking that something's, however, not right. But what?"
Petra Tanko: OnThe Oath, Oder, Radio Slovenia – Programme Ars, 2 Feb 2016
"The Oath was happening in a Serbian kafana, where you sing, talk and especially drink. You talk – said slightly ironically – on your experience of changing the state.Hundred Toasts [of Via Negativa] were on the other hand toasted on the occasion of Slovenia's official cultural holiday. Both performances were based on toasting by us, spectators. One rises a romantic idea of art and artist would lift one's brows over the events. We who don't care much for romantics know two possibilities to survive: cooperate cynically in the process of degradation, or drink together with those who love art."
Ana Schnabl: Cheers to Slovene art, Dnevnik, 11 Feb 2016
"In terms of form, it is an inventive performative event on a border between cabaret, musical and an interactive theatre performance. It expresses its messages right in that mixture of styles, yet in a manner of a loop-feedback."
Petra Tanko: Performance The Oath, Oder, Radio Slovenia – Programme Ars, 12 Apr 2016
Kitch, institute for art production and research, is focused on performance and theoretical production, researching, education, publicist work, and video/film. Established in 2006, the institute practically merges longterm researches, backgrounded in political philosophy and critical aesthetics, with artistic and theoretical engagement. Tandem Kitch has been experimenting with performance and critique in an interdisciplinary manner since 1999. Keeping a strong theoretical and conceptual background, focusing now on performance, especially on the performative potential of kitsch and trash, attempting to directly check beliefs in possibilities disidentification on stage during the in-depth work with bodies – our own and spectators’ ones. Challenged with the collective work of various generations, Kitch reduces theatre language to reach over boundaries of stage, genres and the spectator-performer relationship. www.kitch.si
The Oath video teaser: https://vimeo.com/171298109
Reflections from Panna
The Oath is one of the few performances that don’t mind if the viewer doesn’t get the so-called meaning or message of the work. In this sense it is a brave undertaking in that the authors of the performance leave the viewer to construct their versions of the production all by themselves, with as little shaping and manipulating as possible. That said, it is also a highly conceptual piece, and hence, very much a designed experience. I find myself a bit hangover and surprised the next day, annoyed and frustrated by the experience: how is this supposed to function as a theatre piece, I wonder? It is much later on that I realise that the mild annoyance is probably the essence of processing this performance. I have a hard time putting it together: was it the consumption of alcohol, the cigarette smoke, the loud music or the flashing images of the dancers that blurred my mind? For a critic who’s usually disciplined both inside and outside of theatre, the feeling that I have been misbehaving while doing their job is a very frustrating one – but I also wonder whether it is not exactly this misbehaviour that is the so-called ideal attitude in this performance? Am I not supposed to obey the alleged rules of the game and consume alcohol, smoke cigarettes and feel good, whatever that would mean in this setting? Is the real meaning not exactly in the fact that one wakes up the next day remembering only vaguely that at this loud party there was also some people talking about something, something that feels like it might have been important? Isn’t the point exactly that we lose the real meaning, the complex thoughts and the human stories in the whirling superficialities?
The Oath feels like a party that gave you the worst hangover and made you regret everything you’ve done that night: it makes you want to go back and listen better. And exactly because you cannot go back – and even if you did, you probably would have made the same choices –, it forces you to keep thinking of it. The vague memory of that weird Turbo-folk party, the blatant and unironic use of pop culture makes you want to go deeper or it makes you want to understand better.