Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The Title of the Drama About Ante is Written Here - Blue Elephant Theatre, London

The Title of the Drama About Ante Is Written Here
Writer: Ivor Matrinic
Translator: Maja Tonkovic
Director: Rebecca Tortora
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

‘The Title of the Drama About Ante Is Written Here’ is a beautifully written piece by Croatian writer Ivor Martinic which explores a father and son’s loss. Like witnesses to an accident who both describe what they see and live it, the actors jump from making descriptive statements to emotive ones in a production which for the most part, gracefully flips between the two. What Martinic succeeds in creating on stage is the physicalization of a child’s viewpoint, with all its simplicities, surface emotions and delightful energy.

Ante is one of the 1280 Croatian children who were injured during the country's war for independence. This is his tragic drama and as his birthday party unfolds we see is the story of two men, well a man and a boy, who won’t allow themselves to move on from the ghost of the woman they lost and into the arms of those women that try to nurture them out into life.

Set against a white set that is drawn on and draped in coloured bunting, a simple but very artful indicator of 'celebration', the cast playact their way through this tale, taking on roles of adults, seducers, and protectors - like children experimenting in a play pen. From the off Rebecca Tortora’s production is an intensely theatrical and presentational one, where everything is clearly defined as an action in front of us. Moments of emotion are left to run on painfully, only to then be objectified and talked over in a way that both distances you and somehow makes you feel closer to the whole experience because it is a holistic singular and collective view. Most prevalently Martinic’s script feels very much like a child’s view of the world; with everything blurted out and nothing kept secret. But the adult world does intrude and at points there is also genuine confusion and frustration at not knowing why certain feelings have hit them, creating a much needed layering of tension and suspicion in this otherwise upfront piece.

This peculiar blend of witness and perpetrator is handled brilliantly by Nadja Mitidiero as the big hearted sex siren Yela who’s trying to win a place in Ante’s father’s heart. A warm and charming actress Mitidiero engages the audience both as a performer and as a character, making this strange duality doubly compelling and leaving one with the feeling that you’ve been sucker punched twice. For others this does not work so well, with Naomi Bullock as Ante's young love interest and Daniel Simpson as the 'calm but worried' father, particularly finding the subtle differentiation needed for such a piece a difficult line to tread, resulting in performances which uncomfortably sit neither on one side of the fence or the other.

For the most part however the cast is in strong control of this stylised work. Their costumes of vivid colour and paper are at once elegantly modern and tattered and torn in a design that is smoothly artistic whilst retaining a charmed and childish simplicity that is constantly in the shadow of the ever present echoes of a debilitating war.

Original, sharp and charming ‘The title of the drama about Ante Is Written Here’ is a must see for anyone excited about experimentation in form. Although the story ends in a curiously frustrating and stagnant fashion, the style of the piece and its central theme are of vital importance. The Blue Elephant’s 10 year season has started with an impressive bang.

Runs till 10 October
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