‘The best part of us all: the dog’ by Nataša Govedić (Novi list, daily newspaper)
Along the play “Timbuktu” directed by Borut Šeparović, premiered in Zagreb Puppet Theater – Scene Travno.
It is very difficult to set up a play about the insupportability of violence, whose language wouldn’t repeat the patterns of a TV-report or the shouting of angry slogans in the street. In his previous play, “The Theater Your Deserve”, director Borut Šeparović didn’t manage to find an autonomous language of stage revolt, even though he bitterly accused each member of the audience as a passive consumer of his/her own degradation (the acting crew gave brutal orders to the audience, insulted us, made us write out our personal information, etc.). But in the newest adaptation of Auster’s novel “Timbuktu”, hosted by the New Zagreb Scene of the Zagreb Puppet Theater in Travno, Borut Šeparović and Jasna Žmak, the dramaturge, speak a lot more complex, and subsequently much more accurately, about the similar problem of radical powerlessness. This time we witness the perspective of an aging mutt dog whose survival depends not only about whether he will find an adoptive family after the death of his beloved master Willy (a worm and homeless schizophrenic), but also whether he will endure the cruelty of the world, the all-surrounding “America”, ruled by the merchant measures of interest and profitability.
Relationship as the basis of theater
Of course it doesn’t pay to have a dog, nor any other altruistic, uncalculated (love, friendship, aesthetic, etc.) relationship. The hard line of efficiency cannot bear the „surpluses“ of intimacy. Theater, on the other side, decidedly insists on them. The play “Timbuktu” with a barely withstandable intensity, mobilizes the critical compassion of the audience: as soon as we are eye to eye with a dog, the walls of soullessness disappear as if made from air, instead of the concrete blocks of the world’s banks. For the larger part of the seventy-minute-long play, the audience spends observing the smart muzzle of a trained black-and-white collie (a champion named Cap, as we find out at the end of the play), while Sven Medvešek, situated in the back rows of the auditorium, is in charge of his „biographic“ confession. Then twelve equally irresistible homeless dogs come on stage, brought there in cooperation with the Shelter for Abandoned Animals, and their adoption is being offered to the audience. This scene is directed so that it takes place behind a steel wire, with the noise of the song “I wanna be your dog” performed by Iggy Pop. Even though nobody says that the dogs which are not chosen will probably end their lives with a lethal injection, it is awful to watch their playful bodies and patient gazes, knowing that in the five performances played so far, only two of them were adopted. On the other hand, an artistic act that saves the life of at least one dog is worthy of any praise.
Paradise for dogs and their pet people
Sven Medvešek slowly eases into the first dog singular. At the beginning of the play the recitative rhythm of his intonation lacks a lifelike directness of communication, but he is excellent once he’s on stage, addressing us from the floor, as the four legged subject Mr. Bones (Kosta), embracing a collie. The moment when this human Dog meets his deceased friend Willy, performed by Vili Matula, is also very moving. Matula brings an entire novel of emotions during his short appearance on the “otherworldly stage” (Timbuktu is Auster’s term for canine heaven): from rage and a kind of aggressive delirium, to a vibrating, joking and gentle trust in the unbreakable alliance among friends. Sven Medvešek perfectly plays the unrelenting “doglike” loyalty to his human counterpart in this final scene. The long looks the two of them exchange, discussing casually the unverifiability of reality and the truthfulness of dreams, are a special dedication to the best of emotional relationships which roam the world with or without a tail.
Odysseus’ dog Argo, Toto leading Dorothy into Oz, Šarik from Bulgakov’s story “A dog’s heart”, Auster’s Mr. Bones (Kosta) and many other literary dogs fit perfectly into the human stage: they play us much better than we ever could. They play us without holding back, which is also what the excellence of theatrical impersonation is based on.
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- October 15, 2008 / 1:31 am