Schwarzes Tier Traurigkeit

Black Beast Sorrow
City Theatre MGL, Ljubljana 2013

Writer: Anja Hilling
Director: Ivica Buljan
Scenography: Numen + Ivana Jonke

Borštnikov Scenography Award in 2013.

The play by the German dramatist Anja Hilling is composed as a triptych - the feast, the fire, the city - and scenography follows its tripartite structure entirely.

Within the concept we acknowledged the similarity of this particular triad to the three psychological orders which constitute the subject in Lacanian psychoanalysis (Symbolic - Real - Imaginary).



In the first part, the PVA film is strapped on metal frames that enclose the 'innocent' looking picnic area to serve as an actual and metaphorical membrane - a thin layer of order and denial protecting the reality of the protagonists from the constant proximity of horror.  

The space behind the membrane is continually filled with smoke ensuring that the film appears opalescent throughout the first act and creating the illusion of the open sky with collapsing formations of cirrocumulus clouds. The psychological effect is one of strange unease as the audience observes the recklessness and risque behavior of the feasters, offset by the silent celestial warning.

At the onset of the cataclysmic event, the film is gradually dissolved under showers of 'acidic' rain, in a manner reminiscent of the blistering, rippling and peeling of burnt skin. The growing perforations in the membrane permit the accumulated smoke to penetrate the 'ground zero' of the former picnic area, engulfing the persons and objects on stage. After culmination point, the image of destruction is withheld from the audience by the timely lowering of the fire curtain.




The second act finds the actors confined to the exposing and pitiless limits of the proscenium, in front of the empty wall of the fire curtain, face-to-face with the audience. The feeling of the scene is raw, disturbing and industrial, attempting to convey a sudden collision with the 'desert of the Real'.

Video projections, static, chiseled light and stroboscope are used to assist an on-stage alchemical transmutation of all the characters, brought to their physical and psychological melting point by the sheer forces of horror.




In the third and last act, which is preceded by a short technical break, the scene returns to the strictly delineated, sanitized and meticulously (post)structured world of the art gallery interior.

The characters, now transformed into the narcissistic imago of their own projected desires, roam the neon lit exhibition spaces that feature a methodical display of the material remains of the feast - laid out geometrically on the glowing white tables.

Their specific state of heavily conditioned limbo can perhaps be redeemed through the saving power of sublimation through art. The artist, Oscar, wrapped in the liquefying, placenta-like remains of the PVA film, his hands rummaging through a conspicuous pile of black coal, becomes a token of potential consolidation and rebirth.





Technical Rehearsal,
PVA Film