EUROPEANS

 Are you ready to accept a “different” person, to host a refugee? Or maybe you want to check your sensitivity, empathy, ability to sympathize with other people, to understand critical situations they are going through? Do you like the relevant theatre expired by global ideas? Answers to these questions are awaiting for you in the Europeans – a performance unmasking the modern tragedy of Europe,  – superficial humanism and fake liberalism.

Creators of the latest performance of Europeans of the State Small Theatre of Vilnius: director Paulius Ignatavičius, set designer Goda Palekaitė and playwright Andrius Jevsejevas searched for inspiration, visions, ideas and relevance in several major sources. In particular, they looked into the current context of the crisis of refugees from the Middle East. According to the director Paulius Ignatavičius: “The crisis of refugees from Africa and the Middle East opens up the wounds of Europe. Like a litmus test, it shows how much racism, nationalism, hatred for others, xenophobia we have and, ultimately, fear and uncertainty about the current situation.”

 Another very important source of inspiration of the creators of Europeans is the drama of the great antiquity tragedian Aeschylus – The Suppliants, which, though written two and a half thousand years ago, is relevant todaymore than ever . It tells a story of Danaids, daughters of Danaus – in the play Europeans, they are performed by actresses Agnė Kiškytė, Ilona Kvietkutė, Elžbieta Latėnaitė, Gintarė Latvėnaitė, escaping from forced marriage with their cousins, sons of the Aigyptioi ruler. Daring not to obey to the tyrant's will, together with their father Danaus – actor Tadas Gryn, they take a ship and sale to their homeland, the Greek city of Argo. The King Pelasgus of Argos – actor Daumantas Ciunis, has a difficult decision to make – accept Danaides and face a war against the sons of Aigyptioi, or not to accept them, resulting in the wrath of Zeus, but avoiding conflict and war. This is the fundamental question facing today's European politicians, constantly manipulating tensions between the declared humanism and pragmatic assumptions. Since it is difficult to decide, Pelasgus, having no opinion of his own, asks the opinion of the nation. In the finale of The Suppliants, the nation decides to accept the refugees.

 The playwright of the performance Andrius Jevsejevas, using the speeches of Lithuanian politicians, and texts of modern literature of Anton Chekhov, Albert Camus, David Lynch, has radically expanded the context of The Suppliants of Aeschylus. In the modern version, five Danaids become a female rock band performing live songs and music. They are angry, vigorous, insolent and terrifically brave. At the beginning of the performance, masks worn by Danaids resemble both modern burqa and the ancient choir masks, allowing the maximum accurate expression of the intention of the creators to speak about otherness and the limits of our tolerance.

Author of the Devastating scenery of Europeans, Goda Palekaitė says: “We have almost decided to make a very different scenography, but suddenly I stumbled on a photo of an abandoned swimming pool in Eastern Ukraine, devastated by the war. Seeing that picture, I immediately realized this will be the link that we were discussing with the director Paulius Ignatavičius from the beginning. He was talking about the walls, I was talking about water; he was talking about the war, I talked about competition. We were looking for something monumental for antiquity, but relevant for today's policy, something fresh, yet familiar. The pool does not symbolize anything. This is not a metaphor, but a reference to the inevitable cold reality. And, of course, a sham contrast to our nice comfortable beloved theatre.” The world mythology brought to the performance a particularly strong image of a cow skull, a centrepiece of the action and idea of Europeans. Looking at the textural, real animal's skull that is constantly present on the stage, and becomes a protection, a symbol and an object of worship by the five Danaids, a Lithuanian viewer should feel the relationship of blood and genetic memory linking him with charming women refugees.              

                      “First of all, spectators invited by this interesting team, saw an abandoned swimming pool in front of their rise. Those sitting in the front rows found themselves in its bottom, in a company with Danaids, and those sitting higher could look at them haughtily (together with Pelasgus deciding about their destiny). In the abandoned swimming pool, the sisters represented a synchronized swimming team, with their father-coach, seeking for refuge somewhere higher, where there is still no destruction, where you can live not on the cold tiles, not barefoot. This image is like the dystopian future of the country which recently again got interested in swimming. Only in this case we are not the ones who are in the pool, but also those who do not want to let us out. We are both Suppliants and these Europeans, we are the order in pink fur coats, and it’s masked questioning. (...) This story is told on the basis of the Aeschylus play The Suppliants, Anton Chekhov, Albert Camus, David Lynch and speeches of Lithuanian politicians. Although images in the play are important and attractive, but the story of Europeans is primarily told by texts. Here, literature speaks of the unwillingness of women to marry their cousins, about refugees living in pools, about fear of accepting someone different to your country, city, your pool, and even more – to your home, about indifference of gods/authorities, about fear spreading like a plague.

Kristina Steiblytė, Europeans by Paulius Ignatavičius and shelter givers 15min.lt // 2016-12-20

 “The strongest part of the idea, I think, is a choir of supplicants, comprised of five VMT troupe actresses in the performance: Elžbieta Latėnaitė, Indrė Patkauskaitė, Gintarė Latvėnaitė, Ilona Kvietkutė and Agnė Kiškytė. They do not create individual character types, but act as a single whole while at the same time preserving their individuality. At the beginning of the performance they come in stylized swimwear, and such nudity makes them vulnerable. When they come to ask for asylum in Argos, the ruler Pelasgus (Daumantas Ciunis) drops them a bag of clothing that only covers the upper part of the body – sweaters, jackets and blouses. Barefoot women in this clothing on nearly naked bodies look even more helpless, but also somewhat punk. In general, the chorus is conceived as a female rock group performing live songs and music, and this solution provides energy, audacity and rage for the performance. With burqa-like masks, which remind the ancient theatre masks at the same time, the supplicants tease, provoke with demonstration of their straight-otherness and as if test the limits of tolerance of each of us. But unexpectedly, they can turn into an antique choir frozen in a fearful anticipation – like in the very beginning of the performance – a group of people in a crowded boat trying to safely get ashore”.

Ramunė Balevičiūtė Who are those refugees to ask// Menų faktūra 2016-12-19

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