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Posts tagged ‘Sanja Mitrovic’

Sanja Mitrovic, Will You Ever Be Happy Again

Nóra Bükki Gálla

In films it is always Germans playing the bad guys and they always lose in the end – that is the stereotype director and stage performer Sanja Mitrovic starts her documentary piece with. Following her narrative we enter a world of personal and collective memory to re-think roles, cliches and sympathies.

Mitrovic finished her philology studies in Serbia to move to the Netherlands where she continues to make theatre performances with a strong social and emotional awareness. Her stage is a micro-world of pressing cultural and political issues that can be regarded in a broader international context.

Will You Ever Be Happy Again is presented as a collection of childhood games revived; the two players on stage (Jochen Stechmann is there to show us the German side of the coin) finish playing Partisans versus Nazis to indulge in a series of role games. We get to see Mitrovic’s childhood drawings of bombs, fires and victorious Yugoslavian heroes, followed by what seems to be a Zen teaching but turns out to be a fake story glorifying the people’s Great Leader, Tito. (He is living ‘in the heart of the trees’, so how could he not live in the hearts of his people?) The episodes of a Serbian girl’s life are completed by a German personal history of communist-killer grandfather and a family document of Arian origin. (‘You never know.’) The absurdity of it all doesn’t stop the two players from following their individual patterns of blame, anger and remorse – with occasional flickers of happiness, when bad memories seem like a joke, something to be dismissed with a wave.

A variety of objects are used to assist us on this guided tour of recent history: the small statue-head of Tito, devaluated bank notes from Yugoslavia and Serbia, photos from the time of the war(s),a German soldier’s helmet, pages of newspapers – anything and everything from the Bad Days That Are Over but Still With Us in Many Ways. These objects are taken from two cardboard boxes on the side of the stage and are used freely, just as the single table and chair set in the left center: the game knows no limits, wounded freedom-fighters turn into careless children or lovers imitating mechanic sex by the rhythm of nostalgic folk-pop as the lyrics appear as subtitles on the back screen.

Movement, images words and sounds are inseparable, everything serves the function of drawing the portrait of these two people and their time – which is our time, we are left with no illusions about that. Mitrovic manages to convey her vision on stage (she is ‘there’ in every sense), while Stechmann plays the quiet counterpart (perhaps too quiet, in comparison). The piece duly ends with the two performers chanting, crying and screaming football anthems (one in Serbian, the other is German), ending in a dissonant note of sarcasm.

Serbia-Germany 2:2, we hear from a radio commentator. And isn’t he right?

Sanja Mitrovic

Maxime Fleuriot

Sanja Mitrovic – Will you ever be happy again ?

Well done, talented, clever, well performed, vivid, suprising, complex. Here are the qualities one can find in the play in Will you ever be happy again ? by the young director Sanja Mitrovic. What is this about ? Born in Serbia and living in Netherlands, Sanja Mitrovic questions her identity. How do you deal with your national identity in a country like Serbia ? What do you make of the past ? How to accept and live with what has been done by your family, neighbours, friends ? In thinking over these questions, Sanja Mitrovic draws a comparison with german people after WW2. And so she puts two people on stage, herself as a serbian and a young guy – Jochen Stechmann – as the german guy. These two refered to their own family history and memories to build the play. For instance, at some point in the play, Jochen Stechmann shows an official document from the nazi period, a family record established by the authorities to prove he has no jews ancestors. He also shows a picture of his grand mother dressed up and smiling before attending a Hithler’s speech. As for Sanja, she evokes in a playful way the overwhelming reference to Tito in the raising of serbian children and teens. And so on. All these elements are vividly incorporated in a playful, inventive, dynamic way, almost joking. Sure that Sanja Mitrovic knows ho to tell stories. The dramaturgy of the play is also quite efficient, weel built, vivid, dynamic. The director also makes references to the present period, the realm of money and sex. The plays ends on a desperate and comical sequence : the two partners singing soccer fan songs, showing their pride in their country. Relating to what we saw before in the play, this outrageous pride sounds silly but also terrifying.

Crying out the mutual desparation

Theresa Steininger

Singing, shouting and crying out the mutual desparation of all women, the performer in Nicole Beutler´s „1: Songs“ becomes the personification of famous suffering examples of her sex. In her piece, which Beutler created together with Sanja Mitrovic and Gary Shepherd, Mitrovic is on an almost empty stage, only having five microphones she switches in between. She sings different songs, many of them in some kind psychedelic. The creators have chosen rock music to bring to stage different stories of suffering, like Gretchen´s (of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe´s „Faust“) Marie´s (of Georg Büchner´s „Woyzeck“) or the antique Antigone. Mitrovic cites from Faust, bringing the famous words of Gretchen´s last monologue into a quiet, but agressive rock song. After showing a – in relation to the others – rather simple situation „Please god, let him call me“ with her head in her neck, agression takes over the whole evening, she cries out her wishes, her despariation – „I want everything of life“, but then „If not, I want to die“. This strong situation is cut by a s short „Okay“, she comes to the next scene. Mitrovic barks, pretends to undress, but doesn´t, tells the audience „Watch me vanish“ and in a strong situation moves as if being shot by a machine-gun. She jumps around without any obvious reason, suddenly throws all microphones to the floor, says sorry and comes to a very quiet Shoop-shouwada-song.


Beutler´s/Mitrovic´s performance brings a lot of impressions to stage, some of them very strong, still the red line through the evening was too weak, the topics she had chosen had been presented too often before. Giving the desparation of women a voice, bringing discontend with the world around us to the stage, with the final claim „More than machinery, we need humanity, more than cleverness, we need kindness, we all think too much and feel too little“, which seems important, but also naive after all that came before, the impression remains that of a partly strong performance, but not one that affects – because it is then just one of many.

Nicole Beutler, 1: Songs

Lise Smith

Several recent dance theatre productions have concerned themselves with the physicality of performance in other modes of presentation, particularly live music. One thinks of the surreal puppetry and “sonic haemoglobin” of Pierre Rigal’s Micro, or Gilmore Productions’ touring narrative The Blank Album. As with both of these productions, German choreographer Nicole Beutler’s1: Songs is at one and the same time a performance and a representation of a performance, playing with both the language and the physical codes used by musicians during a live gig.

The piece’s sole performer, Sanja Mitrovic, begins in backlit obscurity, voice echoing into one of the five microphones bristling on the forestage. Mitrovic is severely dressed, in a buttoned-up dark grey shirtdress. Her voice is charmingly fragile, wobbling slightly as she sings the words of legendary female figures ancient and modern: “My bosom aches for him”, “My friends, I can no more”. Comfortable perhaps behind the words of other women, at times the performer seems to accidentally reveal too much of herself; she chants “Please god make him call me back!” long after one track has ended, until she catches herself in the act and coolly calls for the next song.

Gary Shepherd’s music score is in itself entertaining, flitting between indie rock and something that sounds like the bastard progeny of Josh Wink and Joey Beltram – to which Mitrovic pulses through her torso, arms at 3’o’clock, amping to the bass. As the performance progresses, her glacial ice-maiden demeanour and severe dress both gradually unravel; until Mitrovic is skipping around the stage in combat boots, dress unbuttoned and hair flying, screaming the words of Antigone and Medea.

1: Songs is a brave and powerful presentation, and Mitrovic is never less than completely in the moment of performance. A gripping and persuasive look at the female voice through history, through the lens of contemporary concert culture.

Nicole Beutler – Songs

Maxime Fleuriot

Nicole Beutler – Songs

Songs is a solo performance that takes the appearance of a concert led by Sanja Mitrovic. Wearing a very classical and simple dress (« bourgeois » style) the woman looks like rather shy. Yet the outrage and the strenght that show up in the voice, the craziness that show in the eyes and the whole face create an interesting contrast with her appearance. This combination is curious, unique and striking. So are her movements, always surprising, always unexpected. She literally hold the stage with great self confidence. One could think of Claudi Triozzi because of the experiments with the voice but Nicole Beutler’s performance is much darker in what it conveys : suffering, isolation. In fact, it doesn’t look like anything we could have seen before which is the sign of the great performers. However, if the performance starts very well, it loses its powerful charm as it goes on. Unlashing her hair, opening her dress, the performer becomes clearer in her intentions : expressing feminine despair and solitude. The discrepency betwen the appearance and the underlying outrage of the voice tend to disapear. The lyrics of the songs become clearer. Everything become too obvious and one way. Behind the performer, on a screen, since the beginning of the performance, old images are shown. Names of literary heroines appear on these pictures : Ophelia, Antigone, Medea… The images are nice but this will to inscribe this feminine presence in a more general litterary context remain at the level of an intention and seems a little bit forced.