The guest performance of the National Theatre in Niš with the play “Limunation”, based on the test by Dušan Kovačević and directed by Nebojša Bradić, will take place in Zvezdara Theatre on February 19th. The performance examines the mentality of our people and shows all the difficulties that occur when our society needs to make some changes. We talked about the play “Limunation” with the director Nebojsa Bradić.
The play by Dušan Kovačević was written forty years ago and was made based on Stevan Sremac’s narrative “Limunation in the Countryside”. How has the original story been changed in this play?
I watched this play in Yugoslav Drama Theatre in 1979, directed by our great stage director, Dejan Mijač. The story of a teacher Sreta and the people is only a metaphor of a possible relationship between the leaders and the people. It is a story about who, how and why is responsible for the changes, the spirit of innovation and something that needs to bring new quality into a particular environment. When we found the same title in the National Theatre in Niš, we wanted in our own way to sharpen the conceptual basis that Kovačević gave in his play in relation to Sremac’s story. We managed to actualize the situation without having switched it to some other time and other frameworks, but just using that epoch.
What is the time (epoch) of play?
It is second half of the 19th century, more precisely the time of the advanced ideas of Svetozar Marković and Russian educators. On the one hand, there is a conservative environment, and on the other, new ideas. Sremac was quite conservative himself and nurtured a rigid attitude towards the changes present in his “Limunation”. Dušan Kovačević in his play, written based on Sremac’s story, points to the fear of change and unwillingness to change, as the biggest problem of every society. In his focus, this is seen as a negative side of our mentality, which we recognize even one hundred and twenty years after Sremac’s story was written, that is, forty years after Dušan wrote his drama text (script). This comedy is one of those in which Dušan Kovačević “denounces on life”, having the audience rushing to the theatre.
Is that the reason why you determined the play’s genre as “bitter comedy”?
A bitter comedy would be a possible genre of this play because it has elements of both satire and comedy of mentality. I believe, however, that we have gone a step further and made a grotesque, pointing to these defeating psychological elements of both the individual and the group, as the greatest obstacle in the development and transformation of a society.
In “Limunation”, Sreta, interpreted by Dejan Cicmilović, tries to change something. How do other characters respond to this idea?
Unfortunately, both then and now, we are surrounded by the people who are just interested in the concrete profits resulting from supporting a particular idea. They are practically not interested in the idea itself. It is with great inspiration that Sreta brings to that community a certain kind of revolutionary enthusiasm and will for changes, and the power of his idealization drives a number of people who follow him. But somewhere along the way, these people lose and deny Sreta’s idea that relates to the future of the entire community, turning around and greedily grabbing exclusively interest for themselves. This is where I see the problem and actuality of this title, its universality and timelessness.
Why is there a constant fear of changes?
It is caused by fear and deep inferiority, leading to locking away ourselves in relation to others who have gone ahead. Thus we become a closed society that has not entered democracy in a proper way, but remained stuck between prejudice, semi-literacy, conservative values and the mentality chained by alternate succession of megalomaniac ideas with the feeling of persecution and vulnerability. Among all these obstacles, it is difficult to establish and maintain the continuity of visionary action and advanced development.
Is our mentality, as a whole, reluctant to changes or are there some fractions that still trigger new ideas?
If there were no changes, we would probably be walking in the same duffel trousers that Sremac’s heroes walk in. Individuals bring about the values that society should possess. Counting on the fact that we have in our society one hundred percent of conscious individuals who make up the nation and who will be a factor of development, is mission impossible. In percentage, it’s much less than fifty percent of people who are really ready to go forward, risk and suffer defeats. Sometimes it seems to me that the number of such people matches the number of fingers on our hands. However, thousands of people who are seeking changes in the streets of Serbia today are a serious message and give a clear, encouraging answer to your question.
The play “Limunation” was premiered on December 1st in the National Theatre inNiš. What are the impressions and comments so far?
The audience’s response to the play is remarkable, they respond well; they laugh, recognize, and comment. It was of special importance to us for the play to be performed in Zvezdara Theatre, a theatre where the opus of Dušan Kovačević lives. We wanted to add it to this opus and thus preserve this slightly forgotten comedy.