Unlike the Serbian cinema, which has already exploited the disintegration of Yugoslavia in rather an explicit manner, the theatre has mostly done this through focusing on the consequences (with the exception of Marković’s “Turneja” (The Tour)- the disintegration of the family, emigration, delinquency of the ‘90s. However, as much as the notion of nostalgia carried with it the increasingly negative connotation, the authors of the KNKNPNKN play are using the very discourse of nostalgia to show that it is possible to develop the topic of Yugo-mythology in an ironic and self-ironic manner. The very title of the play, at first glance a parody, is in fact highly symbolic- KИКИРИКИ (peanuts) when written in the inverted, Cyrillic I becomes KNKNPNKN when read as if it were written in the Latin alphabet- a term devoid of meaning, a nonsense, like a surrealistic or a Dadaist mantra. It is this transliteration from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, this attempted reconciliation of the two alphabets which symbolically speaks about what is geographically right i.e. left of the river Drina and this bastardly term without any meaning, KNKNPNKN, becomes the leitmotif of the entire cabaret-like play which in fact represents a commemoration to a, for some, equally bastardly creation, and for others to a mythical, utopian dream.
The Yorick troupe and the director Žanko Tomić together with the dramaturge Ninoslav Šćepanović, take us, in the form of fragments and images on a journey through a not so distant past, a journey whose mileage is marked by the cult pop-culture motifs and key persons of the Yugoslav sport and the media of the time, and finally by the fully mythologized and yet absent character of Josip Broz.
In the theatric interpretation of the chapters chosen from the Lexicon of YU mythology, as the author’s perspective of an inventory of significant cultural entries of the former Yugoslavia, the authors of the KNKNPNKN play use the form of witty remarks or jokes and speak through vignettes, usually followed by a male voice off, the narrator (is it God, the incarnation of communism or an icy commentator, an outsider from the so-called “developed” Europe?)
Entries from the Lexicon of YU mythology, such as- the partisans, A Better Life, the cartoon Balthazar, jamboree, the first McDonald’s in the Balkans, Eurosong, Mirza Delibašić, top charts of the stars we used to jerk off to, TV soap opera Dynasty, Rade Šerbedžija or Bojan Križaj, are interpreted by the quintet of actors through mini-drama forms, duo-vignettes, cabaret or dance numbers, parodies of the socialist type performances and masters of ceremonies, through slapstick and the burlesque. This different style approach and the highlighting of certain fragments gives excellent dynamics to this two hour play.
With an attempted (unfortunately only attempted) Brecht’s “Verfremdungs-effekt” and through breaking the fourth wall in several intermezzos, the authors deviate from the course and stylize KNKNPNKN canceling out the necessity of a classic dramatic text.
The leitmotif of the play is a painful parody of the war criminals’ trial in the Hague Tribunal- the robes and the ritual of introducing the accused and the witnesses to the dumbfounded judges are nothing but a masquerade in which through the trivial and ever so nostalgic moments such as, for example, collecting pictures for picture albums, the audience is driven to absurdity, the never ending question of- did it really have to be like this or have we, perhaps, gone too much astray in our playing with the idea of such an utopia?
From slapstick, the fragments take us to profound melodrama- one of the most capturing episodes is the tragic life story of a Yu-basketball giant, Mirza Delibašić or the acting grandeur of Rade Šerbedžija, the symbol of the former Yu-cinema who now builds his career in Hollywood by interpreting roles of officers with a strong Russian accent. With songs from the soap opera Bolji Život ( “A better Life”) which, with its title, inadvertently ironized the horror which followed at the beginning of the 90’s or with chords from the TV series Dynasty, and then the Eurovision duo of Dado Topić and Slađana Milošević which is today a closed, locked and unrepeatable folder, the actors of the Yorick troupe present the Yugoslav homo ludens who has not developed from homo faber but rather from an irrational, mythical, utopian idea which has, rather than crumbs, left veins, blood stains and chewed up bones on the table.
In the finale, with the hypnotizing male off taken from the movie “Europe” by the cult leftist movie maker Lars von Trier, the European Union flag raises over the actors and the audience. As a shadow…or as a promise?
…the play KNKNPNKN represents an impressive, emotional as well as cerebral experience for the audience set in the Kalemegdan fortress of the former Dar Ul Jihad.
KNKNPNKN should not remain merely an ephemeral Belef experience!
Radio Beograd 2
Emisija Kulturni krugovi