‘Echoes of Timbuktu’ by Igor Ružić (Radio 101)
The evaluation of cultural, performance, exhibition and other projects is often reduced only to critical reception. Sometimes numbers are involved, but only when they are best selling or such. However, when a cultural project has a social tone, specifically, when engaged art is involved, as much as that term is prostituted and corny, it is interesting to observe its effects a posteriori. “Timbuktu”, a play with dogs and homeless people that the performance company Montažstroj produced along with the Zagreb Puppet Theater, playing a series of twelve performances on the Travno Scene, is just such a project.
The inscenation of Paul Auster’s novel was an opportunity to focus the attention of the targeted adolescent audience on several problems of the society they live in. A real, even though theatrical, encounter with the homeless might have extracted an immeasurable deflection in some of those young heads that filled this New Zagreb theater in a number that will be hard to surpass.
Still, considering that “Timbuktu” was envisioned, among other things, as a living commercial for adopting dogs from the Shelter for Abandoned Animals in Dumovec, the real effect of that part of action seems insufficient. Out of twelve four-legged protagonists of the play, a new home was found for only two. Does this testify to the inefficiency of the project, an insensitive audience or perhaps neither? “Timbuktu” is a play about dogs and humans, as well as humans and humans, meaning that it primarily creates a platform for thoughts about the other and the needs of the other, instead of mindless adoption that in a few days might once again end in abandonment. This is the opinion of Tatjana Zajec, the director of the Dumovec shelter, whose volunteers also participated in the play, leading only twelve, out of approximately a hundred and fifty dogs that permanently live there, on stage.
That is why “Timbuktu” might not have managed to get the dogs adopted, but for the first time in the history of Croatian theater, it brought homeless people onto the scene and into the audience, not as spectators but as part of the show. Besides, one should hope that it has also raised awareness about the rights and needs of both humans and animals, and not to forget that it made the first theater building on the south side of Sava river finally function in a true sense. The effect is thus amply sufficient for only one theatrical performance, whose life, let’s hope, is not yet finished.