by Saviana Stanescu and Toma Enache
a reading performance at the Edric Hall Theatre, London South Bank University
Thursday 29 January 2009
to view a gallery of photos from the event.
As I am sure you know by now, the evening of Thursday 29 January 2009 brought the theatre reading of ‘Bucharest Underground’, a play by Romanian authors Saviana Stanescu and Toma Enache, under the direction of Toma Enache. The event took place at the Edric Hall Theatre of the London South Bank University.
This was the second collaboration between the Theatre Practice Creative Producing Course of this institution and the Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre in London, the first being the reading of British author Mike Phillips’ ‘You Think You Know Me but You Don’t’, in November 2006, by the Romanian actor Constantin Chiriac.
To all of you who joined us for this special performance, we would like to thank you very much for your time and for your interest in Romanian theatre and culture. To those of you who could not attend due to various reasons (living outside London, work, other engagements), please see below a description of the evening.
The evening was opened by an informal reception with a distinct Romanian flavour given by traditional food and wine, greatly enjoyed by all present. After an opening address by Jonathan Banatvala, Course Director in Theatre Practice Creative Producing at LSBU and Artistic Director of The Works* season of International Bilingual Radio Dramas, and an intervention by Toma Enache, who stressed the importance of bilingualism in the play, the performance began in earnest.
The reading was given by a full cast:
Florina/Eurydice: Cristina Catalina
Nicu Orfeu Doman, a US/Romanian businessman: Mihai Arsene
New York Pakistani driver: Naki Narat
The Nice Old Lady: Simona Armstrong
Vox (Persephone): Anamaria Marinca
Caronu’ the taxi driver: Christian Hogas
The Furies/Dead Children Chorus: Delia Antal, Larisa Faber, Rosalind Adams
‘Bucharest Underground’ is a modern interpretation of the story of Eurydice and the attempt by her lover, Orpheus, to retrieve her from the underworld. Set in New York and the Bucharest’ underground and sewers, the play explores themes of dislocation and alienation through a stunning soundscape of the voices of the street children of Bucharest. The use of both Romanian and English, and the switch from one language to another gives the play its sense of urgency in the search not only for lost love, but also for a lost sensibility and repressed identity.
Florina – a former street kid rescued from the Bucharest sewers by Nicu Orfeu, whom he renamed Eurydice, married and gave a gilded, sheltered existence in New York - decides to return to Romania to work for a charity helping street children in Bucharest. But, once there, Florina/Eurydice disappears into the city’s dark underground.
Bent on recovering his wife at any cost, Nicu Orfeu leaves for Bucharest, but on the way he starts hearing his long-lost inner voice, the voice of his soul, which now mocks him mercilessly in the guise of the three Furies. An overreaching voice of his ancestral grounds, which changes into that of the Queen of Hades, Persephone, also makes itself heard, warning him not to look for his lost love.
Reaching Bucharest, Nicu Orfeu hires Caronu’, a taxi driver, to ferry him to the underbelly of the city, where the Furies’ mockery and Persephone’s threats intensify, testing the very limits of Nicu Orfeu’s wits. Proving to the Queen of Hades that his love is true, Nicu Orfeu is granted the return of his wife, on the condition he should never look back until they get back to the surface. But what does looking back mean for Nicu Orfeu and for Eurydice? Looking back to a way of life, to the place they started from, to a tormented soul or past mistakes?
The language of theatre and the excellent reading/interpretation given by the cast made the continuous switch from Romanian to English seem unimportant, and the public appreciated both the play itself and its linguistic games, giving it a wholehearted round of applause.
Immediately after the play, a brief panel discussion and Q&A session with the audience followed, with the mysteries of a multilingual reading production revealed by director Toma Enache, Jonathan Banatvala and the cast.
‘Bucharest Underground’ is part of The Works*, a season of six bilingual radio dramas produced by partners from Austria, Ireland, Romania and the UK. This was the London premiere of the play in a reading adaptation for the stage. ‘Bucharest Underground’ is the winner of the 2007 Grand Prix Marulic for radio drama.
Toma Enache was born in 1970 Romania. He gained a First degree in Stage Direction at the Theatre and Film Academy of Bucharest (1992-1997). Toma has a distinguished career directing for theatre and television, and also as a playwright and poet, publishing both in Romanian and the Aromanian language. As a director, Toma Enache worked on productions of classical, modern, and contemporary theatre, many of which have been awarded with national and international prizes. From 2000, Toma is the Director of the Aromanian programme of Radio Romania International.