Cepheus – a review

Another review of Cepheus – this time published in Vjesnik – Culture – Monday, 4th October 2010

Romantic Revolution

Performance “Cepheus” by Damir Bartol Indos and Tanja Vrvilo at Theatre ITD in Zagreb

“What else could we have done?”, asks Damir Batol Indos, in his stunning performance in “Cepheus”, of which he is co-author with Tanja Vrvilo. The opening of “Cepheus” took place on Thurs 30th Sept at Theatre ITD. Designed like a sound card, this performance-cum-event-cum-concert transforms the symbol of a rebellious student uprising against the hated Austro-Hungarian monarchy in the Croatian capital city in 1912, into movement and sound. The event from Croatian history that inspired the piece was the unsuccessful assassination attempt on governor Slavko Cuvaj by “Val” (a group of progressive youth, high school students and young writers that used to publish a magazine called Val) encouraged by the successful students’ strikes of that time.

Authors Damir Bartol Indos and Tanja Vrvilo, with the assistance of Vilim Matula, Nikolina Majdak, Adriana Josipovic and Kate Matusis, use this episode in Croatian history to create an absorbing performance full of meaning, enchantment and connection.

The performance title itself is taken from the literary and revolutionary circles held by Janko Polic Kamov, who was an idol of the Val group . Vladimir Cerina was the Editor of the magazine, which was banned after only a few editions due to the nationalistic overtones in writings by some of the most important names in Croatian culture today such as Tartaglia, Kamov, Krleža and Cesarec . “On 8th of June 1912, Croatia joined Europe “, prophetically wrote 19 year old August Cesarec half expecting to be arrested, not knowing that two months later he would indeed be in prison.

On stage the performance juxtapose in sound, movement and action the trials against the revolutionary youth with extracts from Cesarec’s prison writings, poems by Cerin and Krleza and Zora Ruklic’s journal devices – all of which are amazingly contemporary and full of insight .
The performance space itself is a construction made of iron – a copy of the prison cell in the royal jail in Mitrovica where Cesarec was held. The already well known Indos’s tuned/out of tune unconventional musical instruments (such as springs, metal draws) the sound design is also inspired by legendary German group Kraftwerk who, similar to the Val youth group, also had revolutionary views. In addition, Vili Matula plays violin and Damir Prica Kafka is on saxophone and piano.

The destiny of young rebels told through sound and movement leaves the audience with thoughts about the romanticism of revolutions, intentions to die for higher ideals, decisiveness in the fight for the independence of your homeland and the fight for the wellbeing of all people. It ultimately repeats Indos’s question – “what else could have we done?”

The sad part is that the situation in the country today is not much better and is arguably worse – revolutionaries are not being born, poets don’t point their verse at authorities and this is enough to provoke nostalgia for past times. But it is also the reason to engage Cepheus and its central question “What else could we do ?”.
Zrinka Zorčec


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