The spectacle of return to the post covid theater
By Albatros Rexhaj / "Animal Farm" by Driada Dervishi not only restores the theater in Tirana tired of the trauma of Covid-19, but also restores all the emotion that the public expects in a play. A show that claims to capture the elements of the spectacle must have within itself all that a stage is thirsty for, meanwhile, the actors of Driada, the lake amphitheater of Tirana gave the acting and the song as well as almost every corner of the stage was filled with stage jumps and fights. Within the general narrative, these different scenic elements sometimes synchronized and sometimes gave way to each other, always being careful that no element overshadowed the other. Therefore, in total, the Driada farm can not be experienced other than as a scenic spectacle.
The use of elements that unfortunately the Albanian public is accustomed to seeing more only in television shows, makes it possible to shift the focus of attention from the intrigue of the fable to the characters themselves. Although an actor could play several characters at the same time, in this case also attribute to themselves certain animal features, the connection with the elements of the shout of the aforementioned type, but also the formulas that can be found in Disney Production movies, e completely neutralized the animal identity of the characters and this allowed the feeling of empathy with the character’s fate.
This composition gave a special stage grace to a work that belongs to the spirit of epic theater, which being focused on the ideas and the message it intends to convey, can also be tedious. Instead of coming as a cold intellectual shower, which we can even reject, the "Animal Farm" of the National Theater in Tirana came as an entertaining freshness, which made it easier to absorb the anti-totalitarian message conveyed by the works of Orwell. And that, in my opinion, is the merit of the actors who devoted themselves to the show and not to the tendency to dominate each other. In the Driada team there was not a single Ronaldo or Messi trying to grab the attention, but the whole body acted as a single focused on common goal. Without this team game the show would undoubtedly suffer from an emptiness from within. Actors, just like footballers, know how to be somewhat selfish beings, so this commitment to the collective deserves a BRAVO. And I'm sure this impression of mine is felt by almost every viewer at the end of the show and, in my opinion, it goes beyond the lines of what belongs to a subjective experience.
However, as colleagues in the field of theater, we would not be honest or fair if we do not tell each other the details that can serve as a point of reflection for the next productions, but also as a point of debate between colleagues. Theater, like any other enterprise, is a type of laboratory that needs constant updating and discussion. In this note to my impressions of this play, I will focus on two elements that I consider relevant to the overall debate about the play.
During his studies at the School of Dramaturgy, the professor insisted that a theater artist should constantly ask the question, what benefit does the public have from this story? So what do the show’s authors aim for? To entertain the public, to make them aware, to draw their attention to something, to educate them in function of a goal (...)? In the second part of the show, I also asked this question, as I found myself feeling two kinds of reactions from the audience. The older generation, those who had experienced the totalitarianism of the monist regime, in the figure of Napoleon not only clearly saw the figure of Enver Hoxha but also re-felt the clutches of his regime, through which he manipulated and controlled the Albanians. On the other hand, the younger generation, who did not live through Enver's regime, had other reactions. For them, what was happening on stage was something absurd but at the same time comical. After the show, I talked to some of them and this impression of mine was confirmed to me (I paraphrase the comment): we heard from our parents about Enver's time, but we can not imagine it as reality, while what we saw on stage seemed fun. This, to me, poses a problem.
While it is true that "Animal Farm" is a literary reaction to the overthrow of the values of the Bolshevik revolution, ie the appropriation and manipulation that Stalin had done to the struggle for class equality, the work is also universal and finds application in all situations where person intends to appropriate the system. Dictators like Stalin and Enver today have been replaced by various autocrats (open and hidden) who aim to overthrow democracy and freedom. If the Driada and the National Theater have estimated that the play should be only for the purpose of remembering the folly of communism and not to touch on today's autocrats, then, somewhere behind the scenes, we have hidden a new Napoleon, while we, the public , we are inside a massive farm.
A little courage! In my opinion, this is what this production lacks.
As a second element, I have to talk about Boyken Lako and his function on stage. Boyken and his team have done an extraordinary job in the music of the show as well as in the stage elements associated with song and dance. What my ears heard and saw when the actors sang and danced was of a level worthy of Broadway, but I did not understand what Boyken's function was on stage. In its current form, as a narrator, Boyken does not have any real function on stage, moreover, from time to time, he is also a source of distraction and a wild flesh within the composition of the play.
In conclusion: a show (but also a movie) is not a success, if it does not encourage you to think about what you enjoyed, what you will take with you as material for conversations with friends, but also about what everyone estimates that it could have been done differently (not necessarily better). And the play "Animal Farm" by Driada Dërvishi, produced by the National Theater in Tirana, has it all. A scenic spectacle that entertains you, but also makes you think about the past that can easily be repeated.
(The author is a writer and playwright)