The Island after Gellu Naum, Ada Milea's much-awarded concert-performance, produced with the company of the National Theatre from Cluj, turns six years from its premiere at the beginning of the next season. As fresh and full of life as it was from the start, the production will bring viewers out in the open, to lead them in Robinson and Friday's world depicted by Naum, along with Coco the billy goat and the Bedouin natives of an island lost in a sea of loneliness. But how could you still feel alone next to a much-enamored Mermaid and a wooden-legged Pirate, when besieged by Randolph and by Selkirke Grandmas, when Mary finds you and the frightening Mabolo, the cannibal king, recognizes you?
For one evening, on the occasion of "Cluj Days", The Unirii Square will turn into that musical and colorful Island, where we can escape daily monotony and wake up to life. Here is how the actors feel the moment of the performance:
- What does it mean for you to come back on Ada Milea's Island?
Anca Hanu: It's great on the Island. I can hardly wait!
Cătălin Herlo: What a joy! Always delightful to return to this island!
Adrian Cucu: I am very happy about it, because we get the chance to sing. As actors, we really love to sing, especially me. I don't have any fear of singing. I think that before becoming an actor, I wanted to sing. So, I feel great everytime I get the chance to sing in a performance. It's my comfort zone. Unfortunately, I don't do that very often. Singing is much more relaxing than simply uttering text lines. You leave acting aside and mix it with music, which is very good, because you try something different. To sing is to try something different.
Silvius Iorga: It's a beautiful, musical island. I am very eager to see what's new on our return to it. Because everytime, something small and beautiful changes. Either a character, or a little song. Even the space where we perform changes. For instance, our performance during "Cluj Days" will take place in the Unirii Square. So, the square is an "island" among buildings and people. We can be alone there and, at the same time, surrounded by a sea of souls.
Miron Maxim: Let's say it's like returning to your first love, since this was my first collaboration with Ada Milea. I had never done something like that, I had never sang on the stage. Surprisingly, I didn't find it difficult after all, at least from a musical point of view. The challenge posed by Ada Milea wasn't the singing, but the ability to be in that particular situation, even through music. To exist in that situation, to refuse to pretend while singing. To choose instead to live what you are singing. Some of us had difficulties in reaching a certain note, but Ada kept on telling us to forget that we have to sing, because the right attitude will bring forth the right sound. These is how the songs were conceived. After many rehearsals, we reached a point where we stopped thinking, when we were simply there and things worked. I have to say that everytime we perform the show, I get in a good mood. And I think the public feels that.
- The mermaids' songs enticed the shipmen, charmed them, lured them into the deep. What can yor songs do?
Anca Hanu: I think they can do the same, only that, in our case, after she traps him "into the deep", the Mermaid not only stays with Friday, but also has children with him!
Cătălin Herlo: Our songs reveal a special world, a world of loneliness we often face even among the others. They also put us in a great mood.
Adrian Cucu: Our songs? They bring people to theatre and they put a smile on their face... They let them into a story to help them remember about the time when they were little and believed in fairy tales. This Island is a tale with grown-ups, which, because it is sang, takes you a bit back to your childhood, making you wish to relieve a fairy tale, even if you are an adult. Making you wish fairy tales do exist. Not just the viewer wants that, but also us, the actors. You can't return to fairy tales only through words. Words are the smallest part of the actors' expression. We can fully express through song, play, even through circus. Through anything, after all.
Silvius Iorga: Our songs can do the same thing. To entice and lure the viewer. Not in order to drown him, but to entertain, to make him feel better.
Miron Maxim: I think it has the similar role to charm, depending on the viewer. Some viewers are able to transpose themselves more than others, who probably see the performance at a more superficial level. I'm thinking of Ada's fans, because she already has a target-public who really likes what she does.
- How much were yoy influenced by the characters' surrealism? Did you let them "lead" you?
Anca Hanu: We let them lead us quit a lot. I don't think I would have been able to play surrealistically, I rather played the Mermaid!
Cătălin Herlo: I don't know if surrealism sank in us... but, along with Ada, we tried to understand this fabulous and special world made by Gellu Naum!
Adrian Cucu: Of course I was led. My character is the Pirate and I don't think you want to be a pirate and not let yourself "led" by him. How is it to really be a pirate? Every boy wants at some point to be a pirate. So being here a Pirate simply fulfilled one of my desires, a desire to play. Well, he is a funny Pirate. Not like the Johnny Deep character, who is tremendous, because he kills. This pirate must be funny. If he's not funny, it's pointless.
Silvius Iorga: I play Grandpa Randolph Selkirke, who is eighty nine and looks twenty four. He also comes from the sea, like a fisherman and arrives on this mad island, where he can't understand much. It's very confusing. If I think about it, I had no model to build this character. I usually avoid that. I try to use my imagination as much as possible and reflect upon past performances. I try not to repeat myself, to avoid playing the same character. This is my general goal. I think surrealism is a challeng for any actor, it provides you a vast range of performance, of self-discovery. Surrealism enables the actor to discover an infinity of things and possibilities. After all, surrealism transcends the real, doesn't it?
Miron Maxim: I let myself completely led. Especially in this deeply surrealist performance, which takes you out of mundane, actual life and gives you an extraordinary feeling of freedom. You know that you dont't have to conform to realistic rules and that you have unlimited possibilities to explore much more. Surrarealism means first of all loosening the grips, surpassing your limits. For Friday, and other characters as well, I was inspired by people on the streets and literary characters. Sometimes, you don't know where your character comes from. You get a spark, an idea and you say to yourself "this might go there, it would fit into that..." Several such details make something whole. I had a backround picture from reading Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Of course, our play has nothing to do with it, it only starts from there, but moves into completely different directions. I remembered some of the representations I had then, before my teenage years.
- Do you sometimes wish to live on a desert island? What would that be?
Anca Hanu: There are times, yes, but the mere thought seems like something taken from the movies. In reality, this would frighten me! As a Mermaid, however, things would be so much simpler! I don't know what island I would live on, but since we play "what if you lived on a desert island", it can be any nameless island whatsoever!
Cătălin Herlo: No... I am someone who is at peace only surrounded by friends, family, by the loved ones.
Adrian Cucu: Yes. There are times when I'd like to live on a desert island. The older you get, the more peace you need, the more you wish to live on your own on an island. On any island. I don't think there is such thing as an unattractive island. What would that be? I visited Sicily, for instance. What I noticed there was that local people are more different than people from the continent. They are more relaxed, they live a cleaner life. You can see happiness on their faces. I don't know why. Maybe because just like the island is detached from the continent, people also detach themselves from what happens on the continent. I never met angry people there. Perhaps isolation breaks you from obligations of daily life. There is no burden there. I also visited Island Capri. It's very beautiful, but also overwhelmingly tourist. Everything has become very crowded. For instance, it's impossible to find a free terrace. It's hustle like in Istanbul. I liked Sicily a lot more.
Silvius Iorga: I have been thinking a lot at a particular island. It's called Svalbard. It's located between Greenland and Iceland, at the North Pole Circle and it's a place where fluffy reindeer, like nowhere else can be found, live in perfect harmony with polar bears. It's an international island, so to speak. Anybody, coming from any country, can buy a land there. I would so much like to get there, because since I was a kid I was into dog cartages. You can also study polar bears, seals there. In general, I love the arctic landscape, the snow, skiing. In a way, it's another life. You can contemplate Aurora Borealis. I would love to see it, at least once in a lifetime. A day on that island is made of six months... But I don't think anybody would like to remain isolated on an island for the rest of his life. There are however times when you need to isolate yourself. These are the momenst when you have to find yourself.
Miron Maxim: I have many such moments, because I am an introvert and I often feel the need to isolate myself. I need to spend time just with myself. There are introspective moments. Let's say I am my own best friend. Certainly, that's not always enough, so I still need human contact. But I admit that this island analogy describes perfectly my lonely moments. As for an actual island... What should I say? An island in the middle of the Pacific. The problem is you can't really escape that if you sometimes want to visit the city. So I'm thinking of something with a stretch of land which could bring you back to the shore during the ebb tide. Something like Mont Saint Michel, for instance. I visited Bretagne as a kid with my parents. It's there that I heard of Mont Saint Michel. I think it's the best case scenario: you can stay on the island as long as you need, but you can also come back.
- We could picture theatre as an island surrounded by a sea of people. When would their "tides" start to become threatening? Do you think actors could "tame" them? If so, how?
Anca Hanu: "Tides" become threatening when the island (theatre) is no longer "inhabited" by good and pure things. "Tides" are good when they get on the island and actors are able to multiply them!
Cătălin Herlo: Indeed... theatre is an island surrounded by people! The only threat is losing them! Actors have the task of making sure these "tides" never disappear!
Adrian Cucu: Well, let's take things in a practical manner. Can an island tame tides coming upon it? No. It can't. In that case, you move to another island. You move from one performance to another... I would like to live that day when tides - as a metaphor for people - would come to choke us. I really want to see that. I am very curious. I don't think tides need to be tamed, on the contrary, we should try to amplify them, make them bigger, stronger...
Silvius Iorga: I want to point out first of all that nature can't be tamed. And viewers represent human nature. Human nature is even more untameable. So we must act accordingly. If they can break the fourth wall, actors can get in direct contact with the viewers, with the tides of this ocean of people. I'm thinking of the feelings and emotions they have when we try to convey something from the stage. We, on the other hand, have our own feelings. We can't tame theirs. What we can do is synchronize with them. With their feeling. During the performance, we try to feel, to empathize with them. I think this eventually leads to catharsis: it's the possibility to let yourself moulded, like a boat driven by their tides, not like a battle cruiser. Although viewers must also be shocked from time to time. It's sometimes good to break the harmony. Because life shocks you and, as a re-presentation of life, theatre must do the same. Tides only become threatening when you can't do your job on the stage. The public feels that and reacts like a tide about to erase everything. Not in a physical way, of course. In my opinion, every actor, regardless of its native talent or professional longevity, feels when the public is bored and starts to become "threatening".
Miron Maxim: I don't think people outside theatre are ever a threat for theatre or actors. But if I think of the time when actors were thrown at with tomatoes... Still, people were somehow more honest then. There is a lot of hypocrisy now. I personally prefer these things to be honest and true. I consider a privilege being able to do that. And that's all.
In conclusion, dear viewers, join us at "Cluj Days"!
Recorded by Eugenia Sarvari