Losing someone in the translation
THEATRE The Liberation of Skopje Riverside Studios, London
Thursday 20 April 1995
One of the central characters is a seven-year-old boy, Zoran (Thomas Orange) whose father is away fighting with the partisans and whose mother Lica (Hilary Tones) has been prevailed on to curb the persecution of her patriotic Christian orthodox family by making her bed available to a young German officer. The play invites you to speculate about the long-term effects on such children of their warping wartime experiences and of the gulf of incomprehension that will now exist between them and their returned hero-fathers.
Ljubisa Ristic's staging, which uses a mix of actors from this country and from the former Yugoslavia, is the first English language production of the play - and its intelligibility to an English audience is fitful. Mostly this is because of the jabbing, short-winded way the drama unfolds, its often tiny scenes (some of which go into baffling instant replay at different speeds) punctuated by dense blackouts and blaring bursts of rock-fusion electric guitar. What can be left unexplained to those familiar with the material is simply inexplicable to those who aren't. Certain between-scenes switches of allegiance (from patriot, say, to Bulgarian collaborator) I found quite unfathomable.
Staged in an open-plan way that allows for many tragic and tragi-farcical juxtapositions, the play contains extraordinarily powerful sequences, though, and admirably refuses to peddle the idea that suffering enobles or that heroes cannot coarsen into something less edifying. It's typical of its procedures that Georgij (Rade Serbedzija), who refused to spill the beans under vicious Bulgarian torture that has left him partially paralysed and with a massive speech handicap, should gradually turn into a drunken presumptuous sot who has no time for anyone's afflictions but his own.
As his wife Lence, Vanessa Redgrave movingly shows you a loving, sensitive but now drained woman who has had to harden herself to cope with the exigencies of survival. It's her sister who is sleeping with the Nazi and Redgrave's Lence, though she suggested that arrangement in the first place, does not bother to hide her disgust as she rips off the enseamed sheets or rebukes the sister for joining him in scoffing many of the provisions he has brought in payment. In a wonderfully acted amalgam of apologetic tenderness and underlying utter determination, Lence persuades her little nephew Zoran to give up his sandals, precious to him because they were a present from his father but now too tight, so that she can exchange them for eggs.
Ristic harboured hopes of presenting the piece in London's Blitz-evoking Aldwych Underground station, but that would only have emphasised the huge difference between being bombed by the enemy and being occupied by them.
n To 6 May at Riverside Studios, London W6 (0181-741 2255)
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Poldark star Heida Reed says show is not that racy: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
Historian: ‘Disney was right to show King John as a villain' in Robin Hood
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Game of Thrones season 5 spoilers: What we can expect according to George RR Martin's books
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut