‘People can die from an excessive dose of the truth, you know.’
. Ariel Dorfman
In a private apartment, in the centre of Sofia, the performance ‘Death and the Maiden’ by Ariel Dorfman is presented in public. Between the moment of the greeting in front of the Sofia Court and the end of the performance, an audience sees a story about blame, fear, justice, confession and forgiveness. Taken away from theatrical conventions the audience is invited to become a witness and a voyeur.
Dorfman has said that the story of ‘Death and the Maiden’ probably takes a place in Chili but could happen in any other country upon its transition to democracy after a long period of dictatorship. Immediately after the transition people still live in fear, especially the victims of the regime who had been made to disappear or those who had been tortured. Late in the night in such a family house, the doorbell is ringing. A ghost from the near past is at the door. All the accumulated guilt could not be placed on shelves and forgotten. A rapist could become a victim, at the same time victims could not continue living without redemption.
The performance of ‘Death and the Maiden’ will follow the unfolding of a painful situation. The director Mariy Rosen uses the means of psychological theatre. Furthermore, he uses some cinematographic techniques to create a more natural experience for the audience. The attention of the artistic team is focused on the behaviour of the ordinary human being placed in extraordinary circumstances. The director uses moves that suddenly change the object of identification and empathy.
The performance could be described as psychological theatre, yet it is quite different from this type of conventional theatre. To emphasize the sense of reality the performance takes place in an ordinary apartment in Sofia. This place is not usually used for theatre but for everyday life. The stage designer, Petya Boyukova, adapts the space for the performance. She uses all the characteristics and peculiarities of this apartment. ‘The stage’ is set in one of the rooms, but throughout the performance the audience see a part of another room. They can hear the sounds coming from the corridor; they can smell the dinner odour coming from the kitchen. The lighting of the performance space comes from ordinary lamps and bulbs, but it is sometimes used as in the theatre. All sounds in the performance space originate from real sources, like а gramophone, clocks, doors, water taps and the actors. The main musical theme is the string quartet ‘Death and the maiden’ by Schubert, which is integral to the scene action.
In fact, the performance asks questions and avoids giving direct answers or messages. Questions arise about power, about violence and absolution… about the pleasure of power and about a curiosity for violence. The performance is about forgiveness. It is about an act of forced forgiveness. It is about receiving justice, here and now.
Death and the Maiden
by Ariel Dorfman
translate in bulgarian: Lyubov Kostova
director: Mariy Rosen
stage and costume design: Petya Boyukova
music: Konstantin Timoshenko
video: Albena Baeva
photos: Adriana Yankulova
cast: Marinela Angelova, Ivaylo Spasimirov, Hristo Terziev