Two Reclining Figures
Never did Nekrošius’ performances contain so much open and empty space for the characters and actors. This space is ruled by the elements of nature, which also put into action the forces of human nature. Calm and stormy sea, tides, afternoon heat and night cold; the sea, the sun, the wind – all that once hasten, once slow down the thoughts, the acts of the characters and the action of the whole performance. The sound score of this production, sounding like a symphony of untamed nature, give life to the performance and allows it to breathe in its own rhythm – once peaceful and languid, once ominous and dangerously jerky. This rhythm is supplemented by bright strokes of rather cold, blinding white and soft and rich yellow, sometimes tainted with slightly glittering clear blue. As if the quietly rippling unmenacing surface of blue water would be suddenly replaced with a suddenly opening dark depth…
“Othello” is a performance of contrasts. White and black, static and moving, horizontal and vertical. True, the contrast of black and white is not specially emphasised, only delineated, as the director finds it important to oppose not so much the black Othello against the white Desdemona as the nature of Othello against that of all the other characters, their means of acting and participating in the action. […]
It is probably Vladas Bagdonas alone who can suppress his breathing like this while pronouncing bitter words and getting ready to act with shivering spine. Only this actor can put his head on Desdemona’s shoulder, to pat and strike her humid palm like Bagdonas does. Restrained and strict, but also very tender, not a single artificial intonation on his lips – such is Othello, who shares his suffering only with himself till it gets more and more difficult to bear and bends the general down, making him hold on to his only support – his faithful sword. Tormented by exhaustion and terrible thoughts, Othello will put his sword at his head and make bed for himself and Desdemona for the last time. He will threaten her with its sharp blade, as if trying to protect himself; he will take it on his ultimate journey. […]
Desdemona played by Eglė Špokaitė reveals a possibility of a different world. She is like that white door suddenly tossed into the raging waves, a victim of fate called Othello. The actress’ manner to talk differently, to intone words, move and react differently makes her lonely in her own way, helpless in front of other colleagues on stage, but by no means weaker. Light, unattainable, unrestrainable, untamable, and finally – unfamiliar, unrecognisable and unpredictable, Desdemona brings into the performance a strange and charming stylistic error. Špokaitė participates in the action on equal terms with the others, but her manner uncharacteristic of the drama stage creates a certain possibility of aesthetic conventionality. Her scenes with Othello become surprising poetic inserts decorating the entire epic narration. Grievance and fear is as if danced out, death is as if danced out. And probably it is not by accident that the same waltz by Fibich becomes one of the most distinct key musical themes. It accompanies the rage of Othello, and it sounds while Desdemona is parting with this world.
Rasa Vasinauskaitė, “Two Reclining Figures”, 7 meno dienos No. 44 (453), 2000
Between the Crying Doors
What is the main focus of Eimuntas Nekrošius’ “Othello” – a live theatrical entity? The performance occupies the entire space of the stage box carrying and giving birth to all illusions, where the characters are created, conventionally real water and organically real sweat is poured, where the stage floor trembles under small or big, light or heavy, flying or tumbling steps, and the air, generating – along with the vocal cords – the poetic, prose and musical text, vibrates.
Passion, jealousy, trust, disappointment, light and darkness, love and hate, youth and old age – all are here; they travel together with Desdemona’s handkerchief patterned with blood-red poppies and find an expression in each note of a brutally tender waltz, in Jago’s feverish agitation, in the words, movements, objects… But the general picture of the performance emerging only at (really unforgettable) moments is created by a glimpse, a restrained leap, and the movement and striving of the soul towards something that always IS there, beyond the horizon.
Othello is not only evidently old, but simply an ancient man, having arrived from “once upon the time”, from old photographs, from the times when people pronounced all words as if in capital letters and lived accordingly, when the concepts of “heroism”, “duty” and many others were in force, when everything was so serious and painful that real wars were waged in the name of elevated truths, during which real rather than imaginary arms, legs and heads were cut off. […]
Having let into his soul love (or an idea or memory of love) for a creature of a different nature, he is already condemned to fall apart, and the splinters of his self – to be overgrown with grass. […]
Before long, the ruler of Cyprus gets infected with a rather small dose of Jago’s “poison” and allows himself to be stricken with the fiction of jealousy, not because he is nobly trustful or moorishly passionate, but because he finds it difficult to discern the invisible and intangible soul and often sees only its concrete shape, wishing to stop the time of the body (it is said that one can only be jealous of the body and kill only the body…). From the very beginning Othello is trying to take Desdemona nearer to some hard object – a rectangular door, a vertical pole with a scale (which as if marks the oncoming flood); they always communicate through a hard surface, only their waltz of love and death is direct. […]
Othello loses, though he does not struggle with giants, though there is no equally magnificent rival or struggle itself. He merely does not know how to play and does not accept a world where everything is on the surface, where Cassio could not wipe his non-existent beard with a handkerchief. Othello’s tragedy probably lies in the fact that while being able to believe in apparently great, but already non-existent things, he does not believe in very simple and naïve innocence. Like the Commander’s stone statue, he punishes his beloved, whose truth he could not see through self-created abstractions. […]
Vlada Kalpokaitė, “Between the Crying Doors”, Literatūra ir menas No. 49 (2825), 2000