9 December 2013

The length of the performance Pavla Above the Precipice – just under an hour and a half – communicates two things: that it doesn’t flirt with the film format merely within the performative language, but also from the point of view of the time dramaturgy, and that we’re dealing with an extremely precisely paced, acutely detailed and extremely physical staging of the life of Pavla Jesih, an icon of Slovenian alpinism and cinema. The author of the text, Andrej E. Skubic, entered her biography with balanced impartiality; a profile of a revolutionary and an activist is revealed to us, of a woman ground-breaking in her ideas and rebellious against the authorities. Yet at the same time Skubic draws a portrait of an old and lonely woman looking back on her past with cloaked bitterness and perilous melancholy, while her unapproachable nature (which is nothing but a facet of emotional vulnerability) continues to radiate the impression of a magnificent enigma right to the end. Matjaž Pograjc and his cast plunge into this documentary dissection of an important, yet forgotten historic figure of Slovenian sports and culture with all the force of performing that wishes to transfer to the stage both the unbearable effort and the infinite beauty of alpinism. If on the one side the directing with a demanding climbing choreography (using Tomaž Štrucl’s stage design) submits the performers to the practically total (physical) identification, it also places them, in an almost playful manner, into a field of comic-book fiction (illustrations by Nina Bric, animation by Gregor Balog). The merging triggers a multi-layered effect – it comments the very audio-visual medium (and indirectly Jesih’s film career), while on the level of perception it consistently maintains witty alienations from the otherwise very earnest documentary approach to the theme. The inserts of the fragmented montage procedures seem to have no end in this performance: the scriptwriter records them on the level of momentary temporal (from the young to the old Pavla), thematic (from the chicanery within the film community to the distress in climbing situations) and spatial moves (from the mountain wall to the court interrogation), and the director by layering diverse genre strategies and redefinitions of the actors’ bodies. All this piling of elements is – due to the precise articulation and perfected kinetic expressiveness of the entire cast – honed into a clear and dynamic biographical journey. Pavla Above the Precipice is of course not only an intimately retrospective story of Jesih’s greatness; it opens – critically, but not one-sidedly reproachful (a definite virtue of the performance message) – our own historic picture, in which our views of the erstwhile national (German-Slovenian altercations), political conspiracies and sexual discrimination are still blurred, and rather than problematizing them in a fresh way, we decide to sweep them under the carpet.

Zala Dobovšek


January–February 2014

What is undoubtedly charming in the performance is the physical component in the acting, of all the actors. Branko Potočan's choreography, physical condition and the climbing technique – two coaches took care of this – all contributed to the great agility and astonishing effects; the stretching between the face of the mountain and the sky, hanging in the air, swinging to mountain ledges or between the grips, even Brenk, who climbs with a shorter ice axe that slightly resemble some heavy-metal climbing axes – all this ripples the action and gives it a hint of danger and earnestness. It seems that Pograjc and his team this time managed to merge the story about the sad fate of the interwar bourgeoisie – fine, so Pavla Jesih gained this status, toiled for it, so to speak – with the past innovations in the field of physical and risk theatre.

Matej Bogataj


17 December 2013

From the point of view of a theatre spectator and a critic, something truly great was achieved by the director Matjaž Pograjc and the Mladinsko ensemble. The performance grips the spectator from the first scene and elevates him to the sky – then slams him onto the ground of reality in the last one.

Vito Tofaj

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