A SENSATIONAL STAGING OF TOLSTOY'S WAR AND PEACE : PANDUR MOCKS AT EVERY IDEOLOGY
Pandur's War and Peace in our cultural circumstances is unfortunately an exception and not a rule, although the central national theatre actually exists in order to produce exactly such performances: both expensive and of good quality. The only thing that the Croatian National Theatre should be sparing of is dilettantism, which creeps under its roof at almost the same expense far too often. Of course this is not solely a performance of the Croatian National Theatre. It is a co-production with Pandur's private theatre and the City of Maribor, the 2012 European Capital of Culture. Actually this leads to a simple fact: our small cultural milieu is incapable of producing top-level products if they are not put into a wider south Slavic context. Our twenty-year old national attitude, that we must and can do everything by ourselves, has proven to be fatal. In our culture, once isolated, petty interests, small-scale corruption and suspicious valuables always prevail. The same situation is in Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia… The south Slavic region is not a political, but a natural cultural whole, despite the quantity of blood that had been shed to prove differently. And this amongst other things is what this performance talks about, even more than about Russia or Tolstoy. The opening night of War and Peace attracted to the Croatian National Theatre both the local and Slovene cultural elite, but also those celebrities who visit the theatre only occasionally... One who is in a rebellious mood definitely despises such a vanity fair, but the performance itself despises every (presumed) emptiness of this event. And before all it is sarcastic about both, glamour and power. Darko Lukić dramatised Tolstoy's epic poem translated by Zlatko Crnković separating it from an intimate drama. Tolstoy's heroes were extracted from the huge prose fresco as lonely, unhappy people and Pandur's staging is entirely political and actually mocks at any kind of (ruling) ideology. In more than three hours it gradually takes us from the depth of the 19th century into the present. From scene to scene Tolstoy's characters grow into our contemporaries and at the end, in the shortest third part lasting only half an hour, they crop up onto the stage as today's people, exhausted by pessimism and death. It actually says that the post-war period brings more trouble than the war period. In war people “only” die, whilst in the pretended peace that follows they continue dying miserably much longer and in much greater pain. Great words are always everyone's, but misfortune is always individual. The music composed by Boris Benk and Primož Hladnik, a series of piano preludes which hint the dying of bodies and souls of the protagonists, gives a lyrical, compassionate dimension to the performance, all in a somewhat eerie atmosphere of effective, but simple sets. Set designers Sven Jonke and Nikola Radeljković turned the CNT stage into a “stage of the world” whose “edges” and “backstage” can hardly be determined. White or black cloths move and separate the stage like a huge, slowed down kaleidoscope, so every scene suggests a much wider space than what it is in reality. Great battles take place in the minds of actors and spectators as if they really occur at the back of the stage (where it is dark). The acting space is unusually enlivened and illuminated by the light design of Juan Gomez Cornej which also produces depth and width that is actually impossible. The costumes designed by Danica Dedijer, which until the end (some actors change even six times) turn into postmodern aseptic uniforms of some (foreseen) totalitarian fashion, are the main “realistic” frame of the performance. Pandur's staging effects are entirely meticulous; overturned black cans with a red cross, a child's hearse, a curtain waving in the wind. All of these are painful symbols of the characters' spiritual state, amongst which there are several most impressive acting creations. Before all, there is Pero Kvrgić who interprets Count Nikolai Andreyevich Bolkonsky as a militant, funny old man, then Alma Prica as his daughter Maria whose velvety, but clear and warm alto seems to echo all the way to the street. Milena Zupančič is equally convincing as Countess Natalya Rostova. Her alto is hard, almost resembling a harsh male voice, a counterpoint to the voice of Prica. Milan Pleština also gave an impressive interpretation as Andrei, the son of Count Bolkonsky: he restrained his gestures, so his true force acquired an extraordinary dimension. Goran Grgić as Pierre Bezukhov is a good match for him. Amongst the younger actresses, Zrinka Cvitešić as Natasha Rostova and Iva Mihalić as Elena Vasilyevna Kuragin created nice roles and both Lana Barić and Nera Stipčević acted with sensibility. Livio Badurina as the narrator- resonator gave a particular tone to the performance. (Jutarnji list, Zagreb, October 17, 2011-11-13)
WAR AND PEACE is a real GRAND PERFORMANCE : DIRECTOR TOMAŽ PANDUR ( ... ) SUCCEEDED TO FIRE UP THE ENSEMBLE AND PASS ON TO THE ACTORS A RARELY SEEN ENTHUSIASM
I must admit that I was quite curious how Tomaž Pandur will come to grips with Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy and his master novel War and Peace. It is a novel in which documentary historical data on Russia between 1805 and 1815 (relating primarily to wars with Napoleon) interweaves with a series of individual human destinies, in the first place those of members of the aristocratic families Rostova and Bolkonsky. However, members of other classes of the Russian society of the time are also incorporated, so the novel turns into a complex picture of Russian history of a period when the Russian national awareness was being established. Although literary modernism in the 20th century somewhat harmed Tolstoy's canonical position of a great master of realistic narration, we notice that the trend of large novels (both family and historical) which has appeared in world literature in the past two decades, returned old glory to Tolstoy. Is it at all possible to reduce this huge novel that envelops almost two thousand pages to a mere one hundred pages that might represent the textual model for a four-hour performance? How to translate to the stage this immense lavishness of the plot, that enormous crowd of characters of which each one carries a personal drama? It is a mighty difficult task, not only for Pandur, but also for the author of the dramatisation of the novel Darko Lukić, Pandur's long-term associate. How to, after all, stage scenes of large battles in which hundreds of thousands of soldiers participate, even on the largest and best equipped stage in Croatia, in a theatre that has a large ensemble? The work on canonical literary texts that were not primarily written for the stage was not a novelty for Pandur. He owes a greater part of his present world acclaim to the dramatisation of texts written by excellent writers (Dante's The Divine Comedy, Pavič's Dictionary of the Khazars, Dostoevsky's prose). Still, those texts always permitted an introduction of elements of fantastic iconography, irreality and wonderfulness onto the stage. These days, Pandur, in many of his interviews mentioned how he believes that a great realist is not inherent to his poetics, he haunts him with his presentation of the phenomenon of war and the influence it has on people's destinies. In this, Pandur recognises the significance of the novel for the people in this region who have just come out of their wars. After all, in art it is always good to begin with a traumatic experience that touches us deeply; with a personal original idea one can introduce a symbolic, archetypal and surrealist element as our own interpretational contribution.
Director of big scenes
Even this time, mainly respecting the realistic literary original, Pandur has remained loyal to his own poetics and theatre concept. From his very beginnings, performance Scheherazade which he directed back in the 1980s when he was 25, Pandur was recognised as a director with a noticeable sense for stage visualisation. Every scene had an excellent visual appearance and the light design and music (sound effects) also held a huge role. With these, he achieved a specific and very distinctive atmosphere of every scene. He is a director who needs a large stage and he knows how to use the technical possibilities. He knows how to work with large groups of actors and enliven every part of the stage, dedicating enough attention also to individual characters. In the last few years Pandur has been constantly working with designers of the Numen group that “purified” the visual identity of his performances by making them visually less “baroque”, with a domination of pure lines and colours, with characteristic strong contrasts of black and white colours. The share of Numen (Sven Jonke and Nikola Radeljković) in War and Peace is exceptionally large, because it was necessary to enable a fast flow of narration since the scenes are short and elliptic and the changes of the ambiance were frequent. Jonke and Radeljković have solved this with huge curtains that are easily moved around and that transfigure the stage space. The curtain in the first act (where scenes of aristocratic salons are predominant) is white and made of light material; it resembles the classical salon curtains. Three sets of radial light tubes (most probably neon) have a significant role and resemble huge hanging lamps, but due to their variable geometry, they can also turn into specific abstract sculptures that accentuate the atmosphere of the scene, even when it does not relate to a salon. Still, they are much more effective in the scenes of the interior than of the exterior. In the second act which is predominantly occurring in the exterior and deals mostly with war scenes (Napoleon's penetration into Moscow and the Battle of Borodino) the front curtain is of a shady grey colour with a dark square in the centre. In the depth of the stage there is a white cloth, as wide and as high as the entire stage, so with the removal of the front curtain, large scenes of the battlefield could be created. With specific lighting and darkening of the persons on the stage, the effect of dark silhouettes on an intensive white background was achieved. The theatre's incapability to present spectacular battle scenes which Tolstoy depicts in detail in his novel was compensated with these frozen images (like most screen versions of the novel, primarily of Bondarchuk). Whilst the first two acts considerably truly follow the plot of Tolstoy's novel, the third act of Pandur-Lukić's dramatisation nevertheless significantly departs from the original text. The plot is moved to the period after WWII, the post-war Russia tormented by war sufferings. Tolstoy's heroes speak about their traumas and wounds, but that ambiance is not designed as the commonly perceived Russian everyday life of that period. It is a carefully planned Americanised ambiance of the early 1950s, in which medical nurses dressed as erotic pin-ups pass and through them, we make out Tolstoy's heroines. With this surprising narrative extemporisation, Pandur and Lukić wanted to point out that the power of Tolstoy's novel and his deliberations about war, patriotism, sacrifice, love, social justice and human nature do not have to be linked only to Russia and a precise historical period, but they have a universal, trans-historical meaning. It must be noted that by this they did not betray the writer, because his novel also ends with a universal contemplation of war. Evidently, Pandur with his theatre concept and his own interpretation of War and Peace succeeded to fire up the ensemble and pass on to the actors a rarely seen enthusiasm that we have not been noticing at the Croatian National Theatre throughout the past few years. In a series of good interpretations Zrinka Cvitešić in the role of Natasha Rostova as a romantic, amorous and playful Tolstoy's heroine, stands out. She plays this role with unseen passion, huge energy and exceptional physical mobility. She really fills the stage and in this, she is aided conceptually by the director and the costume designer Danica Dedijer: Natasha's airy, swaying, endlessly long white dress that immaterially sways between the elegant black dresses of other characters.
A regional theater hit
Alma Prica who gave the character of Maria Bolkonsky her ethereal appearance and emotion also stands out from the female ensemble, as well as two young actresses Nera Stipčević in the role of Sonia Rostova and Iva Mihalić as Elena Kuraghina. Indeed Goran Grgić's Pierre Bezukhov does not have the softness and goodness that Tolstoy's character incarnates in the novel, but still convincingly presented his search for love and social justice, his wonderings through various emotional states and intellectual ideas that tear him apart. Livio Badurina has an important role as the servant, actually a commentator, who, with his narration, links the scenes and comments the events, sometimes even from a meta-theatrical aspect. Milan Pleština is passionate and impressive Andrei Bolkonsky and good interpretations were given by Bojan Navojec as Napoleon and Siniša Popović as general Kutuzov.
The director's choice of the large Navojec for the role of Napoleon, who was as we know short, is interesting, but this historical disloyalty is most probably a witty move of the director with which he wanted to suggest that artistic interpretation does not always have to blindly follow historical facts. Naturally, the charismatic veteran couple must also be mentioned – the great lady of the Slovenian and ex-Yugoslav theatre Milena Zupančič and Pero Kvrgić. Besides Danica Dedijer who did an excellent job as the costume designer, other associates that must be mentioned are Juan Gomez Comejo and his impressive light design and the two composers Boris Benko and Primož Hladnik. In Pandur's theatre lighting and music are definitely not secondary elements in a performance. Let us conclude that with this War and Peace,the CNT in Zagreb acquired a real grand performance, based on a classical text in a very modern interpretation. The performance, in a proper way, presents the capabilities of the entire ensemble, but also adequately uses the technical possibilities of this theatre. There is no doubt that this performance will not only be a festival hit within Croatia and the region, but it will definitely visit world festivals and stages. Absolutely deserved! (Aktual, October 18, 2011)
A THEATRE SPECTACLE THAT MUST NOT BE MISSED
This could be shown in any European metropolis, not only as an exquisite performance, but also as proof that culture does not know and does not accept any borders“ said Valentina Turcu, a choreographer and ballerina of the Slovene national theatre in Maribor, during the interval after the first act of War and Peace, directed by Tomaž Pandur. Valentina expressed the mood of the premiere audience that was greeted at the beginning of the performance in Croatian, Slovenian and English language. The ambitious drama project of the CNT in Zagreb, in the atmosphere of expectation and hoping, for which people have been searching for extra tickets for days, due to the sensational sets, outstanding acting and masterly direction, outgrew into a spectacle. Coming to see the performance for the regular theatre audience is not only a cultural must, but also an important component of the social prestige mosaic- which, in spite of the four-hour duration, one does simply not miss. Even the very appearance of the Slovenian and Croatian theatre legends Milena Zupančič and Pero Kvrgić evokes special emotions and unhidden admiration. They seem to have been an additional inspiration for the younger actors to present themselves in their best light. Every moment of the beautiful evening and the after cocktail party will be treasured and kept in memory by the majority of the spectators, because such cultural spectacles define Zagreb as a European metropolis. (Aktual, October 18, 2011)
FROM NAPOLEON TO AL-QUAIDA
In the ironic third act, the supplement in which a hint of the contemporary tycoon-like Russia can be felt, Pandur tells us that Tolstoy's romantic heroes would still today be clumsy participants of world history, terrorism and violence, just as they once used to be.
Finally a good performance at the Croatian National Theatre – director Tomaž Pandur, a specialist for theatre spectacles has been a real asset for the weakened theatre house that has not created anything aesthetically relevant for the past 25 years. Nothing less than Tolstoy's War and Peace (dramaturgy by Darko Lukić) was a real measure for this maestro of glamorous theatre staging.
Walking on a thin line
The first Pandur's bluff of War and Peace was the fact that his grand fantasy consisted yet of transparent scenes, the play of light and fluttering curtains on the huge CNT stage – which visually really has a fascinating effect. This obsessive image was complemented with ominous music composed by the group Silence and “empty” scenery designed by Sven Jonke and Nikola Radeljković. Furthermore, Pandur did not dwell on the seductive reconstruction of Tolstoy's novel and the description of the titanic gap between the two armies. That was done by Sergei Bondarchuk on film and in some ways by Pyotr Fomenko in the theatre, with his brilliant acting study of Russian realism. The Slovenian director decided to walk on a thin line by turning Tolstoy's story into a historical irony that is constantly cheating on us and in which the individuals are tiny beings carried away by the whims of destiny or political giants. In order to achieve this, Pandur held to his best tools of the trade, the visual magic and play inside a huge space, so that he could show how the historical breakups and famous personalities look completely profane and trivial in something that is so infinite. The individuals who used to keep the keys of people's destinies in their hands, Napoleon and Kutuzov, in this performance seem nervous, insecure and not one bit glamorous. The counterpoint to the great history are ordinary people, with their passions, worries and weaknesses and in Pandur's vision they are the ones who appear as eternal travellers who adjust to all the inconveniences, political systems and ways of living.
That is why in the performance, after everything that has happened with the war and the peace, we also watch a supplement to the performance, the ironic third act. What would happen to Tolstoy's protagonists today? In a cabaret manner, in which a hint of the contemporary tycoon-like Russian “stretched out between the Tzar and the revolution” can be felt, Pandur tells us, that the romantic heroes would once again be clumsy participants of world history, of terrorism and violence, just as they once used to be. The conclusion that can be drawn is that we have not learnt anything from history, so today we face the new disasters equally confused. (...) The best roles were brought by Zrinka Cvitešić as Natalya Rostova and Livio Badurina. (Novosti, October 21, 2011)
Tomaz Pandur evoca el horror de los Balcanes en su versión de 'Guerra y paz'
El éxito llegó antes de la primera representación. Uno de los grandes logros de la versión teatral de Guerra y Paz, de León Tolstoi, que ha puesto en pie el director escénico esloveno Tomaz Pandur, se produjo en el patio de butacas, antes de que se levantara el telón del monumental Teatro Nacional de Croacia, en Zágreb, la noche de su estreno. El público protagonizó el primer triunfo de este montaje, ya que entre los espectadores, mezclados y en armonía, estaban numerosos representantes de la vida política, social y cultural de Eslovenia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro y Croacia. La Yugoeslavia que se desgajó tras la Guerra de los Balcanes, volvía a unirse en una noche que todos ellos vivían histórica para la cultura de esa zona de Europa, algo que a lo largo de días dejaron claro los medios de comunicación de esos países, primero comentando el acontecimiento y después con encendidas y positivas críticas.
"Lo que los políticos destruyen y separan el teatro lo recompone y une", comentaba victorioso Pandur minutos después de ser vitoreado por ese público que, al final de la representación, vivió con gran regocijo la valiente hazaña de poner en escena nada menos que Guerra y Paz, una de las novelas más importantes de la historia de la literatura universal, y no precisamente corta, con la que tan sólo se han atrevido en teatro muy pocas compañías rusas y alguna anglosajona, sin olvidar la ópera con música y libreto de Prokófiev, y las múltiples versiones en cine, desde las primeras épocas de la etapa muda, e incluso la televisión.
Todo apunta a que Pandur tiene entre las manos uno de los incuestionables éxitos de su carrera, a veces polémica por lo rompedor de sus propuestas. La génesis de esta adaptación a la escena, realizada por el escritor Darko Luki?c, se encuentra precisamente en la guerra, que no hace tanto, han vivido la práctica totalidad de los profesionales que intervienen en este montaje. Luki?c y Pandur, amigos y colaboradores desde su juventud, quedaron separados durante el conflicto bélico. Su primer encuentro fue después de que el escritor abandonara un bunker de un edificio público de Sarajevo, en el que había estado viviendo durante dos años con su madre, sin electricidad, ni agua, ni teléfono y en las peores condiciones imaginables. Pandur le preguntó cómo se podía sobrevivir en esas circunstancias y Levik le dijo que, mientras uno está inmerso en la tragedia, le sostienen los recuerdos más o menos felices de tiempos anteriores, pero que lo malo era poder sobrevivir en tiempos de paz con los recuerdos de la guerra golpeando constantemente la memoria. "Aquella reflexión se me grabó para toda la vida", dice Pandur, "aquel día hablamos de guerra y de paz, pero no de la de Tolstoi, de las nuestras y esa conversación inició este trabajo que ahora hemos hecho con una distancia emocional e intelectual, y desde el conocimiento del estado en el que estamos ahora, no sólo en los Balcanes, que no es otro que el de la inquietud".
Con esas tres situaciones, la paz, la guerra y la inquietud, que Pandur considera son todo un compendio de lo que hay en las sociedades de nuestro tiempo, se han sumergido en la obra de Tolstoi: "Lo que tiene de bueno este estadio en el que nos encontramos es que te sacude, en el sentido creativo, pero no olvidemos que en el lado oscuro de esta inquietud, habita también el miedo", señala el director, quien ha planteado la obra de Tolstoi en tres grandes actos. El primero y el segundo, con la guerra trufada con otras pasiones y hechos, los ha planteado con una sensibilidad y estética similar a la de los grandes maestros de la escena rusa del siglo pasado, sin faltar técnicas stanivslaskianas desde las que los actores muestran todas sus emociones y sentimientos. Pero el tercer acto, el de los tiempos de paz, da un giro copernicano, sitúa la acción en una posible posguerra de la 2ª Guerra Mundial y lo hace con una buscada frialdad y distanciamiento de cualquier emoción, como lo hacen los gurús del teatro germano. Con ello Pandur parece querer mostrar la imposibilidad de vivir en una armonía que pertenece a un pasado: "Esa paz que nosotros casi no conocemos, en la función es como un flash aséptico, congelado, frío, lejos de esa especie de cuadros románticos, que no son de este mundo, porque este mundo sangra, tiembla y no tiene nada que ver con el estado de paz".
De ahí que al realismo de Tolstoi, a su cristiano y anarquista pacifismo, el esloveno Pandur ha incorporado sus propias guerras interiores. Todo envuelto en una ensoñación escenográfica creada por Numen, el colectivo con el que habitualmente trabaja Pandur, el vestuario de Danica Dedijer y sobre todo esa luz, que siempre convierte en un personaje más, de Juan Gómez-Cornejo, el más internacional iluminador que hay en España y último Premio Nacional de Teatro. Todos, junto a los solventes actores del Teatro Nacional de Croacia, han puesto en pie un excepcional espectáculo que Pandur ha querido dedicar a "aquellos que siempre viven en exilios, interiores y exteriores". Pandur sostiene que hay una gran necesidad de hablar de estos temas: "Más aún aquí, donde la memoria emocional está viva y las heridas todavía abiertas; hablar de estos temas nos duele, pero provoca que nos hagamos nuevas preguntas, y esa es la fundamental misión del teatro", señala este hombre que además de ser reclamado por diferentes teatros internacionales, ha recalado en España en los últimos años con controvertidos montajes como Infierno, Barroco, Hamlet, Medea y La caída de los dioses, montaje que acaba de terminar su gira por España. Pandur lamenta que en Europa, durante las guerras balcánicas, se pensaba que la cosa no iba con ellos: "Todas las guerras, todas, son nuestras guerras, y el teatro está para abrirnos los ojos y recordarnos que todos estamos en la misma barca".
Con ese objetivo su montaje de Guerra y Paz, que permanecerá en Zágreb hasta fin de año, dentro del repertorio del Teatro Nacional de Croacia, viajará el próximo año a Maribor (Capital Cultural 2012), Ljubljana, San Petersburgo, Moscú, Milán, Berlín, Bogotá y altamente probable a Madrid.
Pandur se encuentra precisamente en España ya que ha elegido el Centro de Nuevos Creadores de Cristina Rota para ofrecer un seminario en el que "trabajar con libertad, con actores profesionales". ( Rosana Torres, El Pais, Spain,10/11/2011)