10 March 2010

The fact that theatre lies is the best justification to stage reality in its most brutal form – due to the ontological basis of theatre, the viewer can never be completely certain about the reality of the performance. This extremely dynamic, deliberately aggressive play is bubbling with all sort of political incorrectness, vulgarisms, nudity and violence. The viewers can not hide in the darkness of their chairs as the actors directly provoke them and problematize their passive stance.

Pia Brezavšček

Radio Beograd

12 May 2010

We have seen a true, committed, important, rude, political, post-dramatic, post-modern theatre, dealing with us and the time we are living in. This is live theatre that concerns us, it is a living matter of the modern artistic act. The question posed by the play is the question of all questions – the question of responsibility. It is also the common thread, linking all of Oliver Frljić's so far made plays – the attempt to assign responsibility to an individual, his present and his future.

Goran Cvetković


28 May 2010

Picturesquely speaking the virus that has recently been ravaging in theatres of the former Yugoslav space and whose name is Oliver Frljić is already well-known, however, it still raises temperature of the audience and everything around it. His latest play Damned be the traitor of his homeland!, performed in the Mladinsko Theatre in Ljubljana, talks about the collapse of Yugoslavia through the mouth of Slovenians, once again running a finger into the eye of political stereotypes in a venomously provocative way 20 years after the tragic events.

Bojan Munjin

15 May 2010

The show also gives room to bitter laughter: in the obituary, Frljić is named a theatrical terrorist; it gives room to parody – former rallies have been replaced by fashion shows, in which actors wear the flags of the former state’s republics. There is also sadness: apart from an endless string of violent deaths on the stage, the tears of the acting group and the selection of music directly refer to it. Above all, this is really a play about Responsibility, personal and collective, and it affects all those living in these places. If anyone claims otherwise, then they are lying or are – too young (there is no room for incomprehension here).

Tatjana Sandalj


11 February 2010

One of the statements of the play is that there is just one step from models with flags to models under the flags. It also points to the fact that chauvinism of any kind is not to be found on the border that separates entities, but in the atmosphere of only two people and that it can refer to anything. The Slovene discussion on Croats, as well as the Croatian one on Slovenes, especially when a play in Slovenia is the joint work of Oliver Frljić and Borut Šeparović as a dramaturg, must result in this conclusion […].

[…] For theatre not to lie, although it always does, the director and the dramaturg made an effort to further reduce already tested procedures. Nudity throwing intimacy, which is not the physical kind, to the viewer's face; cheering chant displaying an extract of collective consciousness; game of symbols, such as the anthem and the flags only to clearly depict their anything but symbolic arbitrariness; simulation of a documentary situation with the directorial manipulation of perhaps even real sentences and with the installation of context; hypertrophy of emotions, provoked by popular, sometimes even folk melodies… Because of all this the play is becoming yet another, seemingly provocative, but at the same time confused, yet really fine, logical weaving of a whole, where it no longer matters who is talking to whom, but what is pronounced. Primož Bezjak, Olga Grad, Uroš Kaurin, Boris Kos, Uroš Maček, Draga Potočnjak, Matej Recer, Romana Šalehar, Dario Varga and Matija Vastl do not really say anything that we have not already heard in the past twenty years or in some other form even sooner than that. During a family lunch, in a local bar or from a parliamentary podium.

The assessment that Oliver Frljić has created a machine that could »guest« – or could again and again be restarted – in any city with hospitable and somewhat-open-minded-about-the-fixed-repertoire theatres, not only across the former state and region, seems sneering. However, this kind of a machine is just as requisite as it is real despite the theatre's lies as one of the last few ways to prevent the best and the worst newspaper title, inspired by the anniversary of the Srebrenica reality, from happening ever again: They were all cooks, yet eight thousand people are gone. Even if the sensitive audience is offered a packet of disinfected earplugs.

Igor Ružić


Art Act Magazine

28 March 2011

We would need for sure – in Romania – such a cold shower directed to the national ego, this mixture of narrow-minded respect for culture and tradition, usually a mimic of respect, seasoned with nationalistic outbreaks that show the true inner mechanisms of the so-called “cultural world” – completely isolated from the real one. This is what I was thinking about getting out from the show of the Slovenian company Mladinsko, Damned be the traitor of his homeland, signed by Oliver Frljić and presented in the frame of the Perforations New York – the festival that was in the general attention here in the last week, in spite of the huge cultural offer of the Big Apple.

The Slovenian show directly attacks a series of dangerous taboos – some general ones and some which are specific to the Balkan cultural space – and it does it in a very upfront way, with the effect of a fist in the stomach. The audience is deeply troubled by this confrontation, especially that it is a permanent part of the show – as a witness, as a partner or as the enemy attacked with insults. […]

A demonstration of anarchic theatre, combined with irony and moments of postmodern relaxation, the show Damned be the traitor of his homeland is by all means a work of its time.

Cristina Modreanu

Times Square

8 April 2011
United States

At odds with the St. Patrick’s Day festivities was Damned Be the Traitor of His Homeland by the Mladinsko Theater of Slovenia, featuring a multi-Balkan cast. Their exploration of cultural hatred in the Balkan region was chilling. From the sobbing, the multi-tonal choral music, and the murderous shootings of the entire cast at point blank range by a deranged character with an all too real looking semi-automatic handgun, this show reached out and grabbed me by the throat. Directed by Oliver Frljić, a Croatian, and featuring Primož Bezjak, Olga Grad, Uroš Kaurin, Boris Kos, Uroš Maček,
 Draga Potočnjak,
 Matej Recer,
 Romana Šalehar, Dario Varga, and
 Matija Vastl, Damned Be the Traitor of His Homeland ran the gamut of ethnic hatred, mob violence, and single-minded assassination, barely softened by tradition and liturgical music. Although this work has greater meaning for a Balkan audience, the message came through loud and clear: Tribalism will trump morality when all order has perished. In an attempt to re-create an audience-offending diatribe, near the end of the performance Primož Bezjak verbally works over the American audience, trying to foment a nationalistic rise or jingoistic response. Alas, the effort was to no avail, but I admired his attempt to make the work relevant to us. This was the most poignant and purposefully shocking presentation of the entire festival; bring us more of this.

Philip W. Sandstorm

31 August 2011

The director Oliver Frljić, aged 35, still plays a provocateur in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. He wipes the blood running from his nose much in the same way as Lauri Maijala did a year and a half ago in his play Mannerheim Lapsistasi ei mitään. […]

The purpose of Frljić's play is similar to Maijala's: piercing abscesses which spread between generations, showing the pus running from the wounds and cleaning these wounds so that the healing process can begin. The means are simple as well – violence and obscenity – although tenacious and more aesthetically sophisticated.

The plays nevertheless differ considerably in one aspect: Frljić does not only deal with the consequences of the civil war, but also with the ongoing situation in the former Yugoslav territory.

It seems that in Slovenia the use of the Balkan countries' flags in the catwalk show and wrapping naked bodies into them sparked a lot of outrage or – just the opposite – much delight. At this point it is more difficult to identify with the provocative scene – until the models walk the runway the second time holding big butcher knives in their hands. Now that gives a feeling of something greater.

It is also possible to understand and feel the scene in which the actors start interrogating their colleague about his ethnic roots, parents, flag on his boat, songs he sang, his friends … Eventually, it all turns out to have been just one big game – until the man is killed without any warning. In the end, for one or the other or no reason at all everyone on stage dies.
Even without prior political knowledge of history it is evident that the entertaining scansion, during which »Croatian whore« and other demeaning slogans are repeated, shocks people who have personally experienced ethnic cleansing. This is because the scene is imbued with black humour.

The popular award-winning director Frljić is a Bosnian-born Croat. Through his works he is ubiquitous throughout the former Yugoslavia, thus provoking all kinds of tense situations in often very concrete ways.

The last scene of the play […] shows the refusal of one of the actresses to sing an emotional song about peace, saying she wants to quit the project. Although we are not familiar with such practice, the end of the play raises some interesting questions about the link between art and politics, as well as about the rights and responsibilities of artists toward their own moral beliefs.

Suna Vuori


16 October 2011

We witnessed truly transgressive theatre in one of the most interesting plays of the Dialog festival. The artistic provocation served an important goal – studying the idea of nationalism. And we were able to see that we were not only witnesses.

The beginning did not spell anything stirring. Seven men with musical instruments lay on the floor. One by one, they started playing their instruments. Neither the trombone, accordion, military drum, drum, bass, trumpet nor the clarinet could separately or jointly have caused an international scandal. Sure, they played a catchy tune, awing the audience with their musical abilities as supine actors playing without a conductor. Once they put down the instruments, however, the events succeeded one another at a rapid pace. […]

The entire play is built on shock which stems either from surprise or contrast. First insults proved to be the strongest because we saw the following ones coming. Nationality-based scenes of hatred, played by the actors, created a striking contrast to the sentimental melodies of love and the beauties of nature that they played and sang. After an absolutely brilliant interrogation scene of a fellow actor about his Croatian mother, vacation house in a neigbouring country, yacht and a flag on its mast and finally his relations with ethnically different neighbours, it seemed that the hostile provocations were nothing but a joke, the melancholic melody finally bringing harmony and mutual affection amongst friends; then all of a sudden one of the actors shoots an “ethnically impure” fellow actor. Other characters afterwards die too, being admonished by their colleagues for unimportant, yet suspiciously presented events. The worst reproach was marriage with a woman who was of a different, once Yugoslav nationality. One of the women was raped before her death, a body of a man dishonoured by masturbating on it, everyone dragged on the floor by their feet. The bodies lay covered with flags in colours typical of the majority of the former Yugoslav countries’ flags, yet equipped with fictitious coats of arms. This did not only have to do with protecting themselves from potential violations of the law on state symbols. The play was directed against all kinds of nationalisms, not just the kind the actors experience themselves, the point of nationalism being that love of our homeland is righteous while all others are injust, worse, in some places even worthy of disdain. The nationalism of our enemies must be a crime.

It is hard to generalize this antinationalist perspective without referring to one of the ideologies. Yet the theatre group from Ljubljana succeeded in doing just that. They convincingly compromised every single nationalistic idea there is. [...]

The staging presents not only an important voice in the discussion on nationalism (which is surely even more important in the Balkans, where not long ago ethnic cleansing led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people), but also a means of surpassing certain artistic boundaries. Insulting the audience, stirring up their patriotism or hyperpatriotism which is nationalism, group insults of people of other nationalities (mostly Croatians) – these are extreme and normally unused means. Repetitive murders of all characters, killed by one of the fellow actors, were a powerful means, yet one scene was even more powerful. It was the extremely unusual scene in which the actors snapped their fingers and recited: “Croatian cunts, sucking Serbian cock”, or chanted: “Kill, kill the Ustashe, Istria is ours!”, not forgetting to add the exclamation “fucking audience”. So much poison and hatred in a seemingly touching, rhythmic, musically speaking simply beautiful work – that is a true transgression. Ridiculing nationalism with the help of an overt parody seems much easier than escalation into disquiet, pathos; and if it makes us laugh, we laugh with a heavy heart. The elements of grotesque in the play were close to perfection. This kind of artistic effect is rare and requires truly exceptional courage.

I must add that the excellent musical equipment (playing the instruments live, singing, background music), perfect spatial coordination and synchronized movement, meant to display the emptiness of the clichés about the cruelty of killing, made the play not only emotional, but also highly aesthetic. It turned out that a theatre that shocks is not necessarily a theatre that is unpleasant to look at. It was also pleasing to the ear, albeit also annoying because of the frequent gunshots. But what can you do – war is war.

Jaroslaw Klebaniuk

Nowa Siła Krytyczna

16 October 2011

The play Damned be the traitor of his homeland! mostly fights against all forms of agressive patriotism, which seamlessly transforms into nationalism. Short compositions during the play demonstrate a series of instruments, used by the so-called defenders of the homeland: from insults, harassment through questions about origine and citizenship (»If a war between Slovenia and Croatia broke out, which side would you take?«), to the catwalk show with the flags of the former Yugoslav republics. All this, enacted with incredible energy and some sort of unpredictable general hatred, gives an impression of pseudopatriotic discourse and thrills the spectator. Intertwining folk and popular songs from the eighties achieves the effect of blind infatuation with one's own tradition without any kind of confirmation.

[...] The final scene of the play is very trying for the actors who are required to share their personal beliefs with the audience. This scene thus revolves around the universal question about the boundaries of artistic freedom and to the extent of its compatibility with politics. The actors stand in a straight line in the foreground of the stage and vigorously debate the protest by one of the actresses. The quarrel stemming from different national and political beliefs soon turns into distasteful insults and the washing of each other's dirty laundry in public. Witnessing this (un)realistic scene is a clear reminder of the danger that the mechanism of coiling the spring of hatred presents.

Both 20/20 and Damned be the traitor of his homeland! are very sharp and provocative sociopolitical plays. Yet they both contain something that stops us from taking it all too personally and feeling completely offended: that something, used by the creators, is distance and irony. They do not underestimate the problems discussed, however, they still manage to present them without any pathos. The Romanian play for example ends with an instructive scene on how to survive in an ethnically diverse city. This effortless approach allows us to take a breath all the while making the horror and the absurd of individual situations resonate ever louder. The same goes for the Slovenian play; comical and grotesque elements are interweaved with the brutality of war and the cruelty of extremists. Moreover, the play, which was directed by a Croat, contains a visually and rhythmically pleasant composition, during which the actors lie on the floor each playing an instrument. The sounds grow more audible and gradually turn into a single simphony. The broken band manages to stand up and jointly create something marvelous. This incredibly charming and harmonious opening scene, which is afterwards repeated, is the only one of its kind in the entire play. This is because the kind of harmony and congruity, which can only be achieved in music, are nothing more than a temporary state of poise as seconds later everything is destroyed in an avalanche of mutual recriminations and blind rage.

I am pleased to see both plays placed in this year's Dialog festival programme. It turned out such voices are absolutely necessary not only in Poland, but the whole of Europe. It is therefore of the utmost importance to give them a chance to be heard, even more so because in such plays the social objective is combined with a high artistic level. The unusualness of such an event thus becomes nothing more than an excuse or an attempt of marginalisation.

Karolina Matuszewska

17 October 2011

The Mladinsko Theatre deservedly received a warm welcome. The director Oliver Frljić and his actors spoke of ethnic conflicts after the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia, for this purpose turning the theatre into a battlefield – the battle was not only fought between the actors themselves, but also between the actors and the spectators. The latter were shot in the head with fake guns and the accusation of indifference with regard to Srebrenica presented the bullets. Furthermore, the actors jeered Polish fog in Smolensk and criticized double standards. Even though the play Damned be the traitor of his homeland! (a quote from the Yugoslav anthem, which, as we know, melodically resembles the Polish one) could do with a few minor cuts, Frljić, the Croatian Jan Klata according to some, proved to be an artist with a sharp journalistic eye and a non-negligible talent to inspire an inspiring unrest. The Chilean Simulacro is similar to this play both in tone and temperament, yet it did not display such strength. However, when the actors on stage started revealing false images of Chilean reality, sold to tourists during their travels, the adventurous types in the audience started reconsidering their lists of travel destinations. Croatia is often at the top of such lists before for example Cuba or the Dominican Republic. It is similar to Chile, hiding something behind a holiday facade. When it came to the Slovenian offensive, I thought of the impression the Polish theatre would make on the French or the English if Poland went on a European tour with a play about the Polish September (September Campaign, the invasion of Poland marks the start of World War 2) or if a Jew theatre group succeeded in a similar initiative.

Grzegorz Chojnowski

Le Libre Belgique, 8. 5. 2012

To Belgians: »You are nationalists as well.«

The 2012 edition of Kunstenfestivaldesarts has started strongly with a striking installation by Brett Bailey on the horrors of colonialism and its consequences today and a challenging show by Oliver Frljic and a Mladinsko Theatre. With them, the art is in its place, it asks questions, it opens breaches in our assumptions, it challenges us, changes our persoectives, it sheds some light on the darkness that surrounds us. And this is very good.

Oliver Frljic talks about the wars that have bloodied the former Yugoslavia. He does it with the passion, the earthiness, the shamelessness of Jan Fabre. His actors and performers are getting shot, dying to get up, they wrap themselves in flags of the "new" countries, in a fashion show absurd and anti-nationalist. The hatred of others is still smoldering, behind the eccentricity to Kusturica, with his music band. Oliver Frljic is generous, sometimes messy, but it shakes us too when, in an anthological scene, an actor apostrophes and insults the audience by making fun of our Belgian quarrels with "the Flemish, the language that is the ugliest," " Walloons so lazy "and" the public of the festival which vibrates only for Platel and Vandekeybus ". This monologue is a provocative and successful attempt to demonstrate that there is not only Zagreb or Belgrade that we can gut the name of this horror that is called nationalism.

Because of the shows like the two mentioned the festival shows its usefulness, not to mention the pleasure it gives us in discovering new artists, the fact that Western Europe has no monopoly or even central position. Art is everywhere now, even. Everywhere, we ask the same questions and are exposed with unique voice.

Guy Duplat

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