The 2019-2020 season of the National Theatre of Cluj-Napoca starts Friday, 20 September 2019, at 7.00 p.m., with the opening of the production Porno by Visky András, directed by Răzvan Mureșan, at the "Euphorion" Studio of the National Theatre of Cluj-Napoca.
We entered the "backstage" of the production, with a set of questions for director Răzvan Mureșan and for some of the cast actors, in order to help our regular viewers better comprehend the script text.
Eugenia Sarvari: Why did you choose this specific text?
Răzvan Mureșan: It was actually this text which came to me to be read and reflected upon. On close examination, I realized the text has many potential situations and little anecdotes, dramatic microstories from the communist age. Although some of them are just small slices of history, mere fragments or tiny puzzle pieces, I thought it was worth, for instance, to bring on the stage, in their own flesh and blood, the secondary characters that the original text mentions, recalls or projects.
E.S.: How did you manage to reveal the inner drama of this infinitely poetic text? What kind of difficulties did you encounter along this process?
Alexandra Tarce: The dramatic nature of the text revealed itself once we tried to single out certain concrete life situations. That was where we started from. Then, we tried to find an overarching story that should connect all those situations.
Răzvan Mureșan: I always had the feeling the text had something left unsaid. The story is there actually, it just needs to be deciphered, reassembled and somehow reconnected to the mind of the reader and of the stage director, but not because the text would lack something in itself. So we made our own additions to the original story, as we could glimpse it through the rather incomplete, sequential nature of the text.
E.S.: None of you has actually lived in those times.
Răzvan Mureșan: I did, for twelve years. Ruslan also, but not in our country. Perhaps he experienced different things, as far as I could tell. Romanian communism was in some ways different than other types of communism.
Cosmin Stănilă: I would say that Răzvan has a penchant for drawing the "portrait" of the communist world. He directed several productions on the topic. He has an avid interest in it.
Miron Maxim: Out of curiosity, I asked my parents and grandparents about communism. They confirmed many of the things depicted in Răzvan's productions. Details about life in those times, their specific atmosphere. My parents grew in the hardest stage of communism, and I was born towards its peak. My father told me he thought it would never end. He showed signs of dissident behavior, and I picked up much of his criticism towards the system.
Răzvan Mureșan: I would disagree with Coco that I am an avid researcher of communism. Or, at least, I wouldn't call it that way. The sequence of productions he refers to was not necessarily planned. I never intended to give a full overview of communism. But ultimately, the period witnessed so many tragic, even tragicomical stories. There are so many texts written about the fifty years of communism, some of which have already made it to the stage. And yet, we still don't have enough accounts about that time. In a debate I once read, several literary critics wondered why Romanian literature still hasn't given a significant novel or prose work about the year 1989 and the revolution. Despite some attempts, no substantial work of fiction was written about the postcommunist years or about the actual revolution and the change it brought. Dramatic texts dealing with this topic are also scarce.
Miron Maxim: Perhaps one of the reasons is that we still don't know for sure what actually happened then. I think that it was convenient for many people that things should be forgotten, along with all their burden of negative emotions. The public was still interested in the topic during the 1990s, when Pintilie's films appeared, but the interest faded away after 2000. I see people are now focused on transition, and literature, theatre and film are drawing on this topic.
E.S.: What part of you resonated with this text?
Răzvan Mureșan: There were several parts of me triggered by the fact that all those things, some of them hard to grasp, or anyway, extremely painful, could happen then. My mother, for instance, was a small child when she was imprisoned for a few days with her own mother, during the process of collectivisation and nationalisation from the first years of Stalinist communism in Romania. I heard other stories as well, actual dramas that left their mark on us and still seem to haunt us today. It's often hard to escape their looming shadow.
E.S.: Do you think these productions have an exorcising effect?
Răzvan Mureșan: I really don't know. Of course I think about the public first and foremost, when I start to prepare my productions. I am preoccupied with the public's taste. I think we not only have an urge, but an actual duty to tell those stories which concern all of us. They are not acounts of foreign places or of ancient times, but accounts of a very recent and familiar history. Which I think a part of the young public needs to know about.
Alexandra Tarce: I didn't live then, but my parents did, for thirty six years. For me, it's very exciting to discover through theatre what they experienced then. I think it's horrible not to have access to so many of the things you needed.
Răzvan Mureșan: I think that theatre has this tremendous capacity to give a more straightforward and challenging historical account than history books could, and for this reason our productions can be considered largely fictionalized lessons about history. It must be of some use to open the tiniest window towards an age which most people have surely heard of, but know little about. Their reactions might surprise you: "ah, they had no warm water!" They were completely taken aback.
E.S.: It's hard to imagine - as you yourself, Alexandra, pointed out - from the perspective of the present when everything is possible, the extent of the hardships that people faced then.
Alexandra Tarce: The problem is not that I find it hard to believe, but how did people manage to survive then. I have to admit that I was astonished to hear that you could spend five hours or so queueing for bread, cold meats, milk.
Cosmin Stănilă: My part, for instance, has nothing to do with the lack of warm water. More exactly, me and Alexandra are playing a rather simple situation, which you can relate to and which you can connect with contemporary experiences: it's a love story, with a man cheated on. I don't think it's hard, though, to imagine the goods deprivation. The story is set in the most difficult phase of communism, close to 1989, when poverty apparently went through the roof. I suppose people still manage to live then, I don't think they were necessarily less happy than they are today.
Radu Dogaru: I also think you can approach a text dealing with a rather recent part of the Romanian history, albeit a part that you did not experience directly and about which you know little. I think theatre delves into much more unbelievable things than this kind of situation.
E.S.: It does, but this situation is so the more painful as it was experienced directly, if not by you, then by the people close to you.
Cosmin Stănilă: What I find hard to process is the main topic of the political surveillance of common people's lives. That age is still not far behind us. We are still under surveillance, although in a less agressive manner. This is what scares me the most. The Securitate is, and will remain alive.
Răzvan Mureșan: But the effects of the political intrusion in people's lives were more dramatic then, than they are now. And that makes a big difference. The intrusion was brutal then, and it is subtler today. It can, of course, take more perverse, more refined forms. Whereas the Soviet-enforced communism resorted to rougher, more unpolished forms of intrusion.
Cosmin Stănilă: Contemporary capitalism brings into focus the illusion of free expression. Apparently this is what makes the system better. I find it hard to even imagine how you could be sanctioned for your artistic or political beliefs. How you could actually be punished for your thoughts. I think it was terribly wrong and something no one should ever experience again.
Material realized by Eugenia Sarvari