ABOUT THE PLAY
Director: Robert Waltl
Director’s Assistant: Nedžad Maksumić
Scenography: Tina Gverović and Ben Cain
Scene Assistance: Kasim Prguda
Costume Design: Ana Savić Gecan
Music: Uroš Rakovec
Master of Sound and Lighting: Amer Ćatić
Stage Master: Mirsad Bijedić
Co-production: UNIMA Slovenia
THE TEATHRICAL MAGIC OF ROBERT WALTL
In one of his author plays, in ” The Fabulous Adventures of the Apprentice Hlapitch”, Robert Waltl plays all the heroes. He dissolves the emotional encyclopaedia of Ivana Brlić Mažuranić, and builds a city with a tiny shoemaker’s shop, riding on its streets with an old milkman and his donkey. His voice travels through meadows and forests and down the river. Whoever read the stories about the orphans without a mother and father, about Hlapitch and his chaperon, the circus girl Gita, in that play they will find the scents of the ancient times, and colors and sounds of the city fairground. Both the Black man and the little weepy Mark who lost the geese, in Robert’s voice become a kind of mild music, which is both boyishly impudent and gentle in an old fashioned way. The play is a contemporary performance – it is energetic and full of live movement. In “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish“, director Waltl manages the ship on the tempestuous waves of Pushkin’s poetry. There we can hear vocals and Slavic soft sounds just like from a northern Baltic sea shell. The viewer understands and forgives the sins of the greedy old woman, who enters into endeavors with the old fisherman to fulfill her brazen desires through the goldfish. Waltl’s fish is a golden girl from the sea; it is a creature from the depths which responds to human misconceptions with dance and cheerfulness. The storyteller in the Fish is a hero from a comic strip, a rap star, a dreamer, and a comedian.
He is an emblem of the “Waltl” theater in which archaic meets with the new forms, a classic narration with fragmented present, and a story with bold action. His “acting” “Thumbelina” speaks of poverty, hunger, abandonment, and love in a rather filmy manner. It’s as if Andersen met Dickens on one of his trips. Costumes created by Ana Savić-Gecan bring viewers into new stories, historical, futuristic, fantastic stories where melodrama, musical and classics meet. In The Little Siren, the sea music is poured into deep ocean spaces. Their singing is a conversation with the childhood we buried in the sand of time. “Cinderella“ in his performance is a challenge to children’s curiosity and obsession with colors, gold, pink, hairstyles and high heels. With shining eyes and open ears, they swallow the seductive world of a young prince, court ladies, magic dresses, dances, and an escape before midnight. Here fairies and wizards call for a theater adventure. The play stylistically enters into a dialogue with Hollywood musicals, and the songs of the TBF band represent the original textual and musical creation, full of witty twists and citations that attract by the enigmatics of their sources.
As if they’re a traveling theater from the beginning of the twentieth century, Waltl’s actors portray “The Tinder Box“ on an improvised stage; Andersen’s theater about the poor soldier and the witch whom he outwitted and thus became king. At times they are like live puppets, at other times they are as histrions who are immersed in a complicated story, but who also try to get out of it like Brechtian actors. The Italian masters can be felt in tones, as if the music and the old painted curtain on the proscenium is a greeting to Fellini.
In “The Little Brother and the Little Sister” the hero is the frightening forest. Arsen Dedić transformed this forest into a musical spell with girls, pumas and unusual beasts. In the play “Tale of the Postman“ which was created by Nina Mitrović on the basis of a fairy tale by Čapek, the Numen band, as in Chaplin’s movie, transformed the post office into a mechanical hero in which labor dwarfs reside during nights.
Waltl’s encounter with Enes Kišević took place in “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish” where Enes played the old fisherman. This artistic companionship continued through Enes’ verses by which Mitja Vrhovnik-Smrekar composed songs in the “Little Mermaid”. In the Rijeka Puppet Theater, Waltl set Kišević’s “Koka Kokone”. A generous poet who likes his readers and a wide-ranging director who constantly excites his young audience are coming to Mostar as a tandem to cheer the audience with pure and sincere poetry.
Waltl reminded us of Kišević’s work, which is, first and foremost, a poetic work built by unusual rhythmic cascades and based on the rhythmic relations of dance tunes and a dynamism that does not allow breaks as we read. The play, precisely in these dynamic relations, hides a powerful dramatic charge that corresponds to the child’s understanding of the world and its sense of playfulness. This dynamism has captured Robert Waltl’s attention, and motivated him to use it as the basis for the playfulness of his own creative powers and for testing the effectiveness of rhythmic tunes of the poem in the attempt of translating in into the stage language and making a theatrical act.
Understanding the rhythmic cascades was the basis from which Waltl began to create a screenplay out of Kišević’s work. At the same time, this understanding enabled Waltl to base his own translation of the “Puss in Jeans” not on the adaptation of a part of the poetic work to a stage speech, but on a complete translation. He found adequate stage formulations for what is grounded in words, but without losing the words in which the fullness of the poetic work is based. Waltl transformed the rhythmic relations that governed Kišević’s poetry into stage colors, more precisely into four tones – red, yellow, green, and blue. He translated dynamism into motion, and placed the word in the context of movement as an inextinguishable fluid. Above all, he placed music that unifies all these elements and creates the inner strength of stage events. Waltl does not bring these elements into a kind of subordination, which would allow him to be comfortable in creating syntactic units; he creates a special dramaturgy to each of these elements, and provides them with full stage life. Each of these elements have its own stage space and, actually, in one play, we see four performances. But since all of these elements have their own common source – the poetic work of Enes Kišević, they interact with one another, grow into each other and, by doing so, develop the inner potentials of the other.
The movement acquires the fullness of musical movement, and it articulates the relations between the painted entities; the colored factures reveal the inner poetic potency of the word. And everyone wins! No part can be so autonomous to start sounding independently and thus violating the whole. But at the same time, the music is persistently streamed through the director’s ideas, the performance takes on the characteristics of the musical performance, and the color visualizes the world that is experienced; the color is the cosmos in which the world is embodied. The cosmos emerges as the bearer of the direct communication of the audience and the stage acts due to which the performance takes on the character of an artwork. And it is precisely that: it is a small pastel symphony on whose elements the power of experience is based; the word is heard in the background of every colorful chord, and the movement gives them flutter. For the carriers of the plot, Waltl chose masks which contained a certain comic energy, but in fact, they contributed more to the whole visual identity of the set by emphasizing the dyed costume sets that the actors wore.
A CAT THAT TEACHES ABOUT LIFE
The poets are a strange kind – they like to play. Their most beautiful game is a poem, and their most beautiful toys are words. Words are their Lego cubes. When they put them together, a poem is built. They can never be arranged the same way twice. The game is never the same. The poem is always different. There’s always something new from life that is being taken out. It always teaches about life in a surprising way.
The first verses suggest that the childhood play is the most important among all the important things that adults often can not see or feel, even though it happens just in front of their eyes. The game is a sign by which childhood sends completely understandable messages to an adult era. These first verses in poems, or the first complex Lego-words, are the most important ones; they are like a droplet of a riddle that the poet will uncover in the poem. In this game, everything is in place, and everything makes sense. One of the players is a cat, and, since it’s there, it’s logical that there must be a mouse somewhere. Furthermore, the mouse loves flour, so he will be where the flour is; flour is kept in the mill, and the mill is located on the river – everything is perfectly logical. It’s also logical that the Cat and Ivica play. This play continues on other previous plays in which there was a cat in boots and a play in which there was a boy called Ivica who couldn’t bear to live without Marica. The game always continues on the game; the beginning is not known, and the end is not suspected. It continues on the game where the Lego-words were put together in a fairy tale to teach the poet of the „Puss in Jeans“, and many others, about life and magic arrangement of words. And it is logical to say at the beginning of the game: Once upon a time, there was a cat. It’s not just that it “was“, but also that there “is“ a cat, because all fairy tales start with “once“ and because in all fairy tales, at least for children, everything is real. This is true even for the “Puss in Jeans“, which is at the same time a poem, a verse drama and a fairy tale. Due to the fact that the child’s world is real and the fairy tale is real (no matter how unreal both are), everything is real to them.
Although the title is “The Puss in Jeans“, the most important role in the play is given to a boy and his dreams and a protest against reality in which the world of his childhood disappears in disagreement with adulthood. When singing about childhood, especially about what it remains confusing and surprising, it is inconceivable not to sing about love also. The Puss in Jeans and its actors teach us more than one important lesson. Let’s try to figure out which lesson; if we think of ourselves as children again, we will be able to draw the rest of the secrets. These secrets were so close to the poet, that he had to transform them into a poem that is both a fairy tale and a verse drama.