Monday, 19 August 2013

Father Courage: a intimate large-scale theatrical tour of Dubrovnik

The performances of Father Courage (Otac Hrabrost) directed by Boris Bakal and staged on the streets of Dubrovnik are now completed and it is now possible to say one or two words about it. 

Here is Jelena Lopatić, one of the five guides who led the audience from location to location. Each of the guides had an audience that followed them around throughout the entire show and so there were five audience groups of upto 40 in number. The guides led their groups through the streets and offered narration that was often personal or unreliable and not to be taken at face value. At five of the locations, an historic building, a courtyard, a space beside the city wall, a schoolroom and an outdoor basketball court, there were performances that involved other actors. The guides interacted in these five scenes with the other actors in different ways so there were, in a sense, five different performances within the the one larger one.

This is a sketch of the timetable as it was imagined at a middle point in the process. There are the five locations on the left and the initials of the performers who will be at them at any point in time. This was only ever going to be approximate and it was only after trying out the show with real audience groups that it was possible to make it all come together and avoid scenes clashing with one another. It required timekeepers who travelled with each guide to keep the whole system together and with this it functioned pretty smoothly. The sixth location on the diagram 'Klarissa' was the meeting point for everybody at the end of the night where people who had seen the performance with one of the guides could hear how it was with another guide. In this way the sense of the performance could grow in the imagination.

For a tour that included 494 stone stairs up and down it was really quite demanding on the audience. As they were mostly people from Dubrovnik however they were well used to it and that was not going to stop some of the ladies doing what they customarily do for social occasions like this: wearing heels! This woman was far from alone in sporting footwear like this and, trooper that she was, she made it through to the end of the show balancing on these orange heels. The price of fashion.  

The premiere party was certainly a glamorous affair with cameras, interviews, celebrities and so on. Not being part of the Croatian TV industry I was more a witness than a participant to the media circus that followed. I did have to note however that such attention existed for a show that was far from mainstream and this is something that would be most unlikely to happen in the UK. There have followed reviews which have been very positive, though they are in Croatian, so if you can't read the language and are curious, it is Google translate for you.

Finally, I caught the end of a meeting on porous dramaturgy that talked about the performance, tourism, the city, the training of the performers, the history of this work and much more besides. There will be some publications forthcoming on this topic, I'll be sure to flag them up here as a central part of the idea of porous dramaturgy is performance structures that are open to interaction with the environment they take place within.  

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