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Newspaper Delo, May 3 2008
The Cradle, the Grave of Sloveneness
Blaž Lukan

Slovenes Upraised by Slovenes
Author of the concept and direction: Mare Bulc
Slovene National Theatre Drama and Maska Ljubljana
Premiere April 24 2008
Small Stage

If reading societies existed today, the contemporary word would look like this. Namely, Slovenes Upraised by Slovenes by Mare Bulc praises Sloveneness and, beside Slovenes, at the same time “upraises” – as the famous Linhart’s syntagm goes – “Carniolian theatre”. Namely, the performance gathers a series of Slovene specificities, myths so to speak, from furnishing a trousseau, to euphonic singing in chorus and praising the community. The protagonist of this short and condensed performance is thus precisely the community, the primary communitas, which implies reciprocity, belongingness, but also kindness, and just might be an archetypical condition and purpose of Sloveneness and its toilsome yet reliable survival. Along this, the performance draws also a certain elementary ground plan of Slovene theatre, its foundations perhaps, which in a similar manner rely on the collective will of the Slovene national spirit from nearly one hundred fifty years ago. Well, so it would seem at first sight.

The subtext of the performance indicates yet another perspective, which could be positioned in the field of subversive affirmation. Despite satirical intentions, Bulc never mocks Sloveneness or the Slovenes directly. On the contrary, he takes these issues most seriously, and at times even distinctly sharpens this seriousness. But, that which falls (out) of this elementary (de)lineation is the individual, the exception. Bulc’s anthropological study does not know this category, the community takes every dropout, every single initiative immediately into account, being Slovene and Sloveneness is proved solely within the community, into which the actors by the end of the performance, in an extended bow, draw the audience itself. So, where is the subversion, the underlying? It lies precisely in this generalizing, collectivizing spirit, which erases the differences and accordingly produces the one and only general position, locus communis, a self-sufficient and utterly interesting landscape to us who are within it, but which, in fact, on the back side reveals the unexciting image of a community, which empties itself internally until unbearableness. With this, Bulc is not actualistic, but “universal”, Sloveneness in his performance is that which stays for good.

Thus, even Bulc's inaugurational theatre proves to be no longer the foundation but already the ruin. Not because it is formally loose, but because it needs to constitute itself anew, it needs to step out of the demolished myth in an individualised, personified form. Slovenes Upraised by Slovenes is not a critique of Sloveneness. With exceptional (at moments conceptualistic) precision and, at the same time, elementariness that closely resembles a child’s game, the performance discloses the mechanisms of the functioning of a community and its indispensable ambivalence: community as the space of freedom and at once the space of control, the cradle but at once (if we push the idea of the performance toward its radical edge) the grave of Sloveneness.

Bulc's performance (dramaturgy by Bojana Kunst) plays with ambiguities, which are for the most part produced by the precisely dosed actors (Miha Brajnik, Alja Kapun, Maša Kagao Knez, Rok Matek, Katarina Stegnar), both in the moments of collective play as well as at times, when community releases its grip on them – if only for a moment – and allows them to “play it solo”. The video by Aleš Nadai is witty, so is the music by Bratko Bibič (which, of course, cannot do without the accordion…). The performance is entertaining and seductive, and – the idea simply pops up – if those ambitious minds who at present organise national celebrations managed some imagination, they should definitely engage Mare Bulc for their next performance!

Maska, Institute for Publishing, Production and Education
Metelkova 6
SI-1000 Ljubljana

Tel.: + 386 1 431 31 22
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Fax.: + 386 1 431 31 22