26 March, 2023
The Romanian theatre "Masca" surprised the inhabitants of Ruse with a rather dramatic theme of the performance, which did not leave them indifferent
The building of the theatre in Rousse (source: Facebook, theatre Sava Ognyanov – Rousse)

The Romanian theatre “Masca” surprised the inhabitants of Ruse with a rather dramatic theme of the performance, which did not leave them indifferent

Vladimir Mitev

The Romanian Theatre “Masque” visited Ruse on the weekend of 17-18 September 2022 with the performance “Exodus”, dedicated to the increasing number of refugees from wars. The performance was part of the traditional festival of living statues that the Sava Ognyanov Drama Theatre in Ruse organizes every year. The Masque Theatre is the most important theatre in Romania and in the region that develops the art of acting on living statues.

“Exodus” is a performance that recreates the hardships of refugees who have left their homes through “incidents” played without words, only through gestures, facial expressions and body language. The audience encountered the birth of a child by a pregnant woman who had left her homeland, an old man with health problems, a woman taking refuge in the Bible, an intellectual trying to commit suicide, etc. In all cases, the refugees self-organised and supported each other. In this way, the show not only recreated their plight, but also suggested that there is path forward.

“War is the problem. We are the answers,” said Cristinel Dadal of the Masque Theatre during a conversation with a woman in the audience after the show premiered in Rousse. Before it began, Dadal gave a long and insightful introduction to the audience, explaining that we would see sad human stories, but that by watching the actors, we should be able to see beyond them – to see things in real life. He added that there is not only sadness in the show, but also hope, and hope and freedom go together.

Judging by the reactions of a few people in the audience who sought to get in touch with him after the show, the message of empathy and humanity was delivered. One of the women in the audience said it was the first time a theatre performance had made her cry. Another said she admired the Romanians for their support for Ukrainian refugees. She herself had volunteered at the Ruse train station in the first weeks of the war and had first-hand impressions of Romanian involvement in the support for refugees.

Behind the stage was a photo-tapet with a picture of sunflower fields and a blue sky – a reference to the Ukrainian flag. However, Dadal did not specify from which war the refugees were fleeing. Indeed, wars around the world are on the rise, and people who leave their homes face enormous hardship, often being held captive by human trafficking networks or finding themselves in a disadvantaged and vulnerable position in the countries where they are sheltered.

Unlike previous years’ living statues, this year the Masque Theatre offered the people of Ruse a truly dramatic play, which not just caught the eye with its interesting characters, sets, clothes and make-up, but also made the audience feel uncomfortable, experience dramatic emotions and go through a certain transformation. Romanian theatre and Romanian actors seem to be more prone to conveying social messages. It is also significant that Romania has a highly developed political theatre scene with a social flavour. Thus, encounters with Romanian theatre show us that theatre could not just serve as an entertainment after the working day or working week, but to make us think.

The citizens of Rousse are privileged compared to the inhabitants of other cities in Bulgaria, because they have access to visiting Romanian theatre groups. The interaction of the Sava Ognyanov Theatre with theatres in Romania and Moldova should continue. It makes us part of the world and creates conditions for change, because we know ourselves better in each other’s mirror. And in this case, the other was not only the Romanian actors, but also the refugees they represented.

The whole performance can be seen here:

Photo: Snapshot din spectacolul Exodus al teatrului Masca (source: YouTube)

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