TRAGICOMEDY – THE TRAGEDY OF OUR TIME
From Aristotle to Hegel to postmodernist theoreticians the notion ofthe tragic in the theatre has received many different interpretations.Although the tragedy is one of the oldest theatrological terms whichare almost self-explanatory, the definition of the tragic in the modernworld, and the modern theatre, is by no means an easy task. Thepresent-day world is replete with the tragic potential yet it is veryintriguing how the present-day theatre responds to it. It is clear thatthe reach of the theatre is limited and that television with itspolitical programmes or reality shows has long substituted for thetheatre as the place of catharsis. It is as clear that for a long timethe average political life of a country has involved more elements ofthe classical tragedy (pathos, catharsis, tragic error etc.) than themodern theatre. Nevertheless the theatre has survived the battle withmodern media and won for itself a particular space which may not affectthe social order in any substantial way but can certainly challenge it,examine it and criticise it. And that is what it has been doing, moreor less conspicuously and in a more or less revolutionary way, forseveral thousand years.
This year Bitef focused on the phenomenon of manipulation with the notion of the tragic in the modern world. Afterwe saw a host of productions, we could not but arrive at one conclusiononly and it gradually morphed into this year's slogan which, in anutshell, says that the tragic quality of today's world as perceived bythe theatre always turns into a tragicomedy. One of the definitions oftragedy reads: "The very possibility of the tragic is associated withthe social order as it presumes constant values to which the herodefers of his own free will. In the end, the order is always established, be it divine, metaphysical or human". The question of thatorder on which the modern civilisation is based is, in fact, what makestoday's theatre authors and their audiences laugh and what prevents themodern man, all too cynical and self-centred, to find himself at thecentre of the tragedy along the lines of the ancient or Shakespeareanmodel. This selection thus brings together some of the most outstandingand prestigious names on the international stage who, each in his orher way, address modern phenomena, balancing on the thin rope stretchedbetween the tragic and the tragicomic perception of the world they livein. They include artists like Marthaler, Goebbels and Gotscheff whomthe Belgrade public already knows and artists who, although longpresent on the international theatre stage, come to Belgrade for thefirst time. It is, first and foremost, Meg Stuart, the Americanchoreographer and dancer who lives and works in Europe.
Lack of Space is thetitle of Marthaler's production and an excellent metaphor for thepresent-day humanity and, clearly, a major tragicomic topic for themodern theatre.
Anja Suša i Jovan Ćirilov