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The Good, the Bad and the Happiness

Iulia Popovici

Synopsis: a performance about childhood and how “the good” becomes “the bad” as the history turns around. An ironic history:Will You Ever Be Happy Again? had its world premiere in Belgrade, at the BITEF Festival. While working at this performance (in 2008), Sanja Mitrovic became a Dutch citizen, and she had to give up her Serbian nationality.

Once upon a time there was a happy country called Yugoslavia. Really, it was happy, not because even the trees joyfully spelled the name of the leader Tito but because people were happy, even those pictured on the 100 dinars bill. Then the country stopped being happy – until its citizens (fewer now, since the country had become smaller) gathered again on the bridges of the capital, to save it from bombing. Rewind: the Serbian-born dancer/choreographer/director Sanja Mitrovic and the German Jochen Stechmann star a 75 minutes performance (in both Serbian and German) about how the international perception of national identity marks the personal construction of the self, putting in a mirror their own experiences. The Nazi Ahnenpass (certificate of ancestry) of the Stechmann family and little Sanja’s schoolbook from the ‘80s have an equal weight in the subjective spectacle of memory. The result has nothing to do with another semi-digested story about the tragedies of the war in former Yugoslavia, the “German guilt” or the so much commented “Östalgie”. It’s ironic without being bluntly critical; it’s touching without being sentimental – equilibrium very difficult to reach when talking about the innocent bystanders of recent past.

Staging it as a loose children’s game (on the repeating model of “partisans against Germans” – the local form of an otherwise universal patriotic re-enactment of a more or less imaginary glorious history), Sanja Mitrovic rediscovers in Will you ever…the immense theatricality of objects (from photographs and Tito’s statuette, to passports), of ideologically framed movement (as in the performative reconsideration of the choreography of communist mass gatherings), of music as cultural icon (Serbian pop hits). Jochen Stechmann’s merry appearance and Sanja Mitrovic’s self-contained performance make them remember together, in a sort ofcadavre esquis, what they cannot let go of their past as members of a certain community.

 

Fast-forward: And, of course, famous football matches always become the ideal background for going back to the roots, in a hectic choir of national pride and sense of belonging to a community.

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