acting: Marinka Štern
vocal: Metod Banko
director, set design: Matej Filipčič
dramaturgy, text: Jana Pavlič
costume design: Alan Hranitelj
light design: Jaka Šimenc
sound design: Jure Vlahovič
techincal support: Igor Remeta
photo: Peter Uhan
design: Rok Marinšek
production OSUM and Zavod Bunker
project was supported by Ministry of Culture RS and MOL - Departement of research activities
Musical and film impulses take the actress through the stage landscape of the play. They awaken flashes of her own memories, fragments of some other actresses’ – other imaginary and real women’s – past lives. Her story is replayed in the stories and lyrics of popular songs. In the spiral structure of acting interludes and musical preludes, and vice versa, the space of her reality and the space of her stage memory, space of creation, meet in a fine line, where she must catch her balance with accuracy, for the stage can become a truly vast landscape, full of traps and perils, where if not careful, she may quickly get lost. In the reality inside reality she whirls into that special interspace, where she is no longer herself, or, in fact, becomes herself for the first time. She only just indulges into the stage reality of the scene, and already she recalls the repetition of frequent, regular, and periodical chores, inculcated into her mind by other people day after day. Fragmentariness of the emotional states enables her to withdraw from herself and look down or up on her double she likes to show herself to, and who is always observing her from the other bank through the prism of his emotional memory.
La La La ...
"Good evening, my dear and not so dear ones. From now on I will be many persons." That is how the actress Marinka Štern addresses the audience watching her perform in La La La ... Her words sound like an introductory greeting, but the audience are actually being ushered towards the exit door. Coming at a point when most of the set items have already been removed from the stage and an irreversible cut has been made into the fictional texture of the play, her words announce the end of the event and give sense to her earlier actions. "I don't sleep at night and I don't want to know anything about the mornings," she says, and adds in explanation: "In the end, I am never the same person as at the beginning. That's why in the mornings I never omit any of the repetitive chores to be done on a frequent, regular or occasional basis – as drilled into my head by others." As I head towards the exit, making my way through the crowd, the concluding song, Jay Livingston's hit Che sera, sera from the second version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much with Doris Day and James Stewart in the lead roles, still echoes in my ears, making me go quietly back to the beginning of the evening. "Whatever will be, will be," sings the sugary voice in my head while my mind keeps replaying persistently the scenes that unquestionably belong to the on-stage past: the multitude of scenes featuring Marinka Štern trying out various rituals to overcome the loneliness that overwhelms her on-stage persona. No matter whether she depicts her meticulously structured everyday routines, such as cleaning and cooking, or reveals, full of dreamy verve or tense anxiety, her states of condensed emotion when reminiscing about her relationships with men – all the way to the cut in the end she performs loops in time and space, opening up a world of fiction before our eyes and obscuring the true coordinates of events.
In his production La, La, La …, created in collaboration with the dramaturge Jana Pavlič, the director and set designer Matej Filipčič deals with the relations between time, space, identity and relationships in his distinctive style, clearly established by now. His time is flexible and uninterrupted: the play has a circular dramaturgical structure layered with dream and memory loops. Events are largely transposed, difficult to pinpoint and, above all, communicated as seen from the elusive atomized perspective of the protagonist, whose narration and on-stage actions provide nothing but allusions. The stage space, dominated by a centrally positioned pile of plain cardboard boxes, seems like a repository of fictional memory. Standing on top of one of the boxes is an imposing antique gramophone on which a crackling 12-incher spins along with a white collar and an indispensable black bow tie. Glimmering at the back of the pile and, for quite a while, appearing as nothing but a visual sign is a straight back of a man in a freshly ironed white shirt and a shiny dark waistcoat. When the figure turns around eventually, it turns out to be Metod Branko. He does not speak but sings, making a smooth performing duo with Štern. In a similar way as the time, the stage space largely functions at the level of pointing to off-stage events and their on-stage keys: the pile of signs spread all over our visual and auditory field are nothing but traces of the far past and the possible, nothing but unreliable signposts directing to partial interpretations of the whole. This distinctive theatrical world, nostalgically immersed in the sounds of popular tunes making references to the mid-20th century film classics, is coloured by elegant costumes by Alan Hranitelj, designed with a view to including the same references. The on-stage signs do not combine into a solid and tangible story; they are only there to titillate and hint at possible interpretations, leaving the final interpretation to the viewer.
"I discard the loves I no longer need. If I haven't taken them in my hands at least once in a year, I cast them aside. Old loves must be clean and stitched up, I must not forget that. I never throw away first loves, no matter how dirty and tattered they may be. First loves enable us to determine our age." Who is this woman and how many faces does she have? The actress plays her, with wit and verve, as someone who could be a frustrated housewife, a serial killer and everything in between; patching up manically her old loves and putting on and off her satin gloves, the charismatic character in front of us is infused with both humour and suspense, making it possible for us to switch between an emotionally charged melodrama and a gripping crime story. Playing humorously with this possibility, the director brings dismembered parts of a male costume/body on stage. At a certain point, the collar and bow tie spinning on the gramophone are joined by a pair of polished men's shoes on a mobile support, obviously remote-controlled by an unknown hand in the backstage. This brings us to the inevitable questions of how to understand the man incarnated by the actress's singing partner and how many persons to see in him. Is he the shadow of the woman's real partner, an unattained male ideal, the embodiment of the loves long gone or maybe something completely different? What is clear beyond doubt is that Filipčič's production is an enigmatic theatrical rebus dealing with the theme of love relationships, a slippery construct of escaping fragments telling a story of failed attempts at intimacy with others. Even though the actress re-enacts them in the on-stage present tense, they have a retroactive effect on the viewer: as the play unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that nothing is going to happen because everything has happened already. What we are witnessing are escapes into dreams and memory, the confinement of fiction in a circular structure of events in which the end and the beginning are one and the same thing, and the protective effect of irony and distancing, which help the whole escape sentimentality and nostalgia. "I always keep a spare fuse, battery or voltage tester close to my heart," says the actress. "I wind my heart every day at the same time to keep it beating steadily. When it grows old and small, I will be winding it twice a day, let's say in the morning and in the evening, and if I accidentally drop it into sea water, I will put it into an airtight freshwater container to prevent it from rusting …"
Petra Pogorevc, critic
UNSTAGEABILITY OF PAIN
The course of direction is a drama of self, where the existential anxiety is abolished by commanding the instability between conditions. In such stage system pain seems almost unstageable, especially besides the regular surplus value of concealed comedy, which helps the performance to annul any impression of being stuck in aestheticized vacuum…
LaLaLa... is a picture of (not only contemporary) backwardness between reliving the past, reconciled pleasure in reality, and imaginariness of the expected… Primož Jesenko, Delo
‘Nostalgic housewife with an interest in corpses’
Through the leading interpretation by Marinka Štern and her mysterious stage partner, the performance La la la… spreads the mosaic of different memory sequences. Be they cruel or pleasant, they are each time portrayed with a pinch of easiness and a good deal of wittiness. It consistently executes its amusing and relieving way. Because it does not pretend to be anything it is not, this is perfectly relevant. The blackness of the hall in The Old Power Station with only the most necessary scenic equipment enabled it to narrate mainly through the emptiness, which remained and has later filled with great many words from minute to minute. The stage properties become only a central thought, association. Their purpose is to quietly lead the spectator’s view along with the reciprocal chain narration of memories.
The staging is a jigsaw of ‘memo-scenes’, which by acting of light and music each separately depict a certain memory. The variations in place of action and in emotional states are almost radically changeable. But still: whether the memory is a traumatic one or not, the actress presents it in a polite and not at all disfigured way, sometimes almost privately. It is no wonder then, that at moments we may doubt whether she makes eye-contact with the audience or with the theatre image of memory she is just dissecting. Her interpretation is a sort of auto-manifesto which causes re-establishment of nostalgia, drives away the amusement, or invents a new provocation for herself. Her memorization is endless and by that, the wideness of memorizing challenges her to present herself as a refined cook, a bit later as an admirer of corpses and the suddenly – bang! – as a daring lover. However, she remains a loyal music lover. The gramophone on the scene cannot help but to give an impression of an actual co-actor. Travelling through the memories takes advantage of the actress’s body both aesthetically and organically. Seductively and charmingly she sometimes needs compensation in agitating stretchiness and aerobic elasticity. A memory is a memory – and it knows no mercy – and she, a fetishist for memories, of course and without a second thought, agrees. The presence of the powerful scenographic sense is in this performance by all means obvious and considerable. Sometimes it is also tactically used, instead of some other idea of direction. And if this is one of the solutions which turn the attention, then let it be. La la la... reproaches nothing, promises nothing, and intrudes nothing. It hums its ‘la la la’ and just by its simplicity it offers an effective portion of reassurance. Zala Dobovšek
In his theatre performances, the architect, scenographer, and director Matej Filipčič sensibly takes up emotive worlds and connects them with non-pretentious articulations of stage as a landscape. That is probably why laics and professionals expect them with inclination. If in his initial works (Interieri 2000) the story about the space dominated the stage, this one now is placed in the material of the event as its inner constituent part…
Stage miniature La La La... pulsates in charming nostalgia, set with musical and costume instrumentation from mid-twentieth century which is carried with playful nonchalant by the protagonist Marinka Štern…
The signs on Filipčič’s stage are not fully meaningful symbols, but indications – signs that just direct towards guessing the meaning of the absent in this skeleton performance…
The performance declines its landmark which would in its relationship to the performance undoubtedly help claim the answers. By leaving the interpretation to the audience, he places the body of the event on the crossroads of the production and perception. At the same time he confirms the identity is always evasive, that it belongs neither to the object, nor to the subject of his perception, but it originates somewhere in between – in their mutual connection… Barbara Orel, Dnevnik
- LA COMEDIE DE REIMS, Centre dramatique national, Reims 2007
- THEATRE SILVIA MONFORTE, Paris 2009
- NAPOLI TEATRO FESTIVAL, Napoli 2009