Each year, the Romanian higher education system supplies, through its art universities with their faculties and institutes in Bucharest, Cluj NapocaIaşiand Tg Mureş (every two years), around 15 graduates in Performance Arts and Directing. In an unchanging, predictable institutional system, with the same number of state-owned theatres and staff grids, and with quasi-limited financial resources and perspectives for the independent/private field, it is not easy for young talents to emerge. On the other hand, the Romanian art environment, dominated by the idea that the director is responsible for theatrical success or failure, is impatient with the young directors, who achieve success early in their careers and who manage to go with the current, despite the burden of general expectations and success, which may come too early in some casesBobi Pricop made his mark! He surprised everybody beginning with his debut, in 2011, with Backyard Games, by Edna Mazyahis bachelor’s degree exam as a director graduate, following his BA in Theatre Acting. 

FIRST STEPS 

His connections with theatre are older, extending back to high school, when he was an actor in the acting team of Petru Rareş College, with which he toured in a series of performances in English throughout Romania. Since not all teenage dreams get fulfilled in the world of grown-ups, his first clash with reality occurred after the baccalaureate exam when, in his zest to conquer the capital, of course, he failed the admission exam at I. L. Caragiale National University of Theatre and Cinematography Bucharest (NUTC). His failure with flying colors did not discourage him: the young man applied instead to the admission examination at the private Spiru Haret University, where he was lucky to be accepted into the class coordinated by Sanda Manu, who became his mentor and taught him how demanding acting is. “Theatre must give a message to the viewer. In order to continue and to preserve my honesty, I also need to preserve some kind of doubt. I’ll never forget Professor Manu’s words about ‘our never-ending dissatisfaction,’” Pricop told me in an interview I conducted with him in 2015. [i] He chose to direct after another experience as an actor. As a fresh acting graduate, he participated in a casting with 300 other aspiring actors! It did not take him long to realize that his chances of being cast in a role were very slim and, to also “rid himself of the frustration of any private school graduate,” he decided to direct. He had to get a NUTC diploma! This complementary training as an actor and as a director helped him develop professionally, fulfilled him as an artist, and gave him all the necessary “tools.” He acquired a double perspective: that of the actor who, through the impersonated character, addresses the public directly as the aesthetic messenger of a playwright’s message; and that of the stage director in charge of the integrating vision, the creator who unifies all the elements coming together in sync in theatre through the concept of performance.

After watching his debut performance, “an unexpected starting point,” as Pricop calls it, I met him at a meeting organized by the National Theatre Festival, where he was invited for a discussion together with other two colleagues of his generation. He made a difference through his open, honest, and straightforward manner of talking about his plans, about what directing and theatre meant to him. He spoke naturally: “I am a young man who finds an expression of himself through theatre. I am trying to do my job as well as I can, to the best of my abilities, without any fierce ambitions. Directing means finding your way.” I carefully monitored his evolution; he has already created his own style and features that make him stand out on the crowded landscape of aspiring young actors and directors. The Romanian establishment is a relatively closed world, the state-financed theatres having a rather short and not so generous list of brand directors, who are chased by all the managers. With few exceptions, our theatre forged only one model of success: the collaboration with box-office directors, whose name and value are a guarantee of selection for festivals, awards, chronicles, and a satisfied audience. The race of the graduates to find work, to be noticed, and to make their mark is a marathon that few can run. Apprenticing to an artist who guarantees success may help. Participating in the few contests in the institutional network that grows young talents might also help. Working independently for a few seasons, which are sometimes one too many, in the penury characteristic of this area, where austerity needs to be countered by creativity and endurance, is yet another option.

EXCLUSIVE INTEREST IN NEW DRAMA

Pricop assisted some directors—Alexandru Darie, Beatrice Rancea—and he was a member of Andrei Şerban’s Itinerant Academy; and after he was already launched, he was Robert Wilson’s assistant. Pricop knew how to use his art strengths with Backyard Games, a production taken over by Act Theatre in Bucharest, invited to numerous festivals, and awarded. Then offers began pouring in: Bulandra Theatre Bucharest, Marin Sorescu National Theatre Craiova, the Youth Theatre Piatra Neamţ, Regina Maria Theatre Oradea, Luceafărul Theatre Iaşi, I. L. Caragiale  National Theatre Bucharest, Odeon Theatre Bucharest. In Paris, at Théâtre les Déchargeurs, he staged Amalia Respire Profondément, by Alina Nelega, a show that was well received and was performed in the Off of Avignon. His very early ascension is due to his obvious talent, his artistic and human maturity, and his professional discipline, which he demonstrated with each new project. Just five years after his graduation, Pricop has an artistic profile with features which define him, and his scene formula focuses on narrativity/story, the actor and the message delivered to the public. Pricop’s theatre raises questions first about the individual; the larger social context where the individual enters comes second. With their surprising backstories, strong characters, and relations, his performances are a human game in which reality meets fiction, coexisting in the space of the connection between life and art—that is, the stage. Pricop creates a theatre of physical and emotional dimensions that connect and that trigger empathy. His performances unite stories, artists, and viewers, bringing them together and turning them into connection knots at a very human, almost personal level. In projects with various outlines, his creation is a series of experiments within a personal style of understanding and practicing theatre.

Pricop’s repertorial interests lie in the areas of contemporary texts, new theatre, and themes: Edna Mazya, Esteve Soler, Ivan Vârâpaev, Mark Haddon, Mihaela Michailov, Elise Wilk, and Mike Bartlett are some examples. The course taken by the director’s thematic interests consists in problems faced by adolescents, family, reinforcing or weakening feelings, human relations cemented by love or destroyed by the lack of it. The texts chosen are plays or adaptations that develop a significant story. The theatrical narrative is activated by characters whose marginality has an artistic appeal. These characters are built through writing techniques typical of the post-dramatic present: fragmentariness, repetitiveness, minimalism, discontinuity. Pricop always begins from the text—not as a museum piece, for he does not refrain from reshaping it—but preserving its status as a starting line of the future staging, as a depository of the history that will be staged. Together with his team, who are more often than not members of his generation and whose vision he shares, Pricop renews the theatrical structures, shaping theatre in a performative way and in a positive dynamic. He never forces his theatrical approach, but the show stores ideas, coinciding visions, gathering hyper-expressive mechanisms which relate to the two poles of the stage—the theatre and the public—in an amazing way. Preparing a production is a theatrical exercise achieved under his precise supervision. The creation is born while the new show is underway, with the team working and Pricop leading the rehearsals. Without any strict hierarchies, with a dialectical and democratic involvement in the creative process, the staging poetics favors the ensemble, harmonizing the theatrical components. The elaboration of form stimulates everybody’s activity through staging practices, the director assuming the final design of the construction in a unifying way. Pricop’s stagings manage to fulfill the most difficult theatrical mission: the creation of a mutual inner space inhabited by the artists and the public. The viewers are not forlorn, sitting in the darkness of the hall, like some unknown addressees with blurred identities, but receiving messages in the hope that at least some will touch them. The viewers are integrated into the circuit as a primary potential presence as early as the first rehearsals.  Pricop’s  staging unifies the two environments of the theatre as a place of reunion and socialization through art: the stage and the public. His theatre formula is empathetic, one that intuitively projects states of being, a generous formula created for those who watch it, dedicated to them. Pricop creates a genuine theatre which addresses our humaneness and human truth. He neither intimidates the public through forced interaction nor leaves them untouched. He includes the public in the show. Sometimes the public is involved physically; at other times, through emotional identification. His authorial involvement is neither blatant nor flinching. It is not strident or egocentric, but it is noticeable in the ideas, coherence, and homogeneity of the performances. His staging guarantees efficiency to the team and fluency to the discourse on stage.

Backyard Games. Photo Credit: Ozolin Dusa.

ACTIVE SPECTATORSHIP AND TECHNOLOGY

In The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time [ii] the directing rhetoric is inventive, melting the qualities of the story in its vision, rendering it theatrical, stimulating the imaginative energies of Pricop’s artistic team, working with a small cast, in which some play several parts. That is a magical conjunction!

In this production the team played with the public, connecting the two worlds, the illusion box, and the viewers, integrating them through the complex perceptive, intellectual and filled with affection processes by which the viewers relate to the art object. They managed to do this by involving the audience in a peculiar way, switching their mode from contemplative to reactive. This was achieved largely through elements of scenography, mainly the reflective background which moves forward and backward, leans at various angles, unifying the protagonists and viewers via the mirrored image. Thus, the presence on the stage, which is the impersonation, and the one in the room, which is an actual presence, are united through psychological channels, where here and there, near and far are juggled and come together through the visual effect. This kind of theatre addresses the viewer directly, and in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time the hall is no longer just the sum of those sitting in their armchairs in the dark and watching; it is more than that. The theatrical illusion annihilates the fourth wall through the virtual introduction of the viewers in the staging device. This kind of communication and performance, this staging technique involving physical closeness, triggers some sympathetic junctions between the two micro-worlds which have always achieved a balance in the theatre performance. The public’s “correct” reaction as a passive absorber, which everybody usually expects, is no longer appropriate. The public is attracted to the protagonists, being included visually in the theatrically narrated events. The narrative’s invention builds invisible, but strong connections with the viewers also due to the creation of some spaces endowed with “a soul,” which combine staging fantasy and the reality of the viewers.

An imaginary backdrop of no material concreteness triggers unexpected aesthetic effects. In all of Pricop’s creations there is a strong relationship with the scenography, which offers far more than just scenery; what the scenery holds are mechanisms of signification which act as emotional boosters. The visual solutions, given by Adrian Damian and those in charge of the video side, generate an active environment which achieves a dynamic interaction of the text/story with the public to whom the actors have to deliver it. The interaction with the staging space is natural; those in charge of the visual component integrating imagery in this seamless staging construction.

The creation is articulated through practicing a productive imagination in the playful examination of the story, which Pricop shapes in an original way, without losing any meaning or intention. He also has the capacity to melt the staging elements in a performance format built in an intelligent and coherent manner. The show concept uses all its means to develop the idea of outlining the inner world of Christopher, the adolescent suffering from Asperger syndrome whose adventures it follows, whose genetic setting renders him different, in order for the public to understand him better, and for the world of the stage and the public to interfere. Computer graphics externalize how Christopher processes the world. The story is narrated, just as it is in the written narrative, and also played as a dialogue, as a theatre performance, in balanced degrees, with events delivered cinematographically, in theatrical, visual, and sonorous waves. The strands Pricop uses come together imaginatively in a fluid, homogenous, surprising discourse. Scenographer Adrian Damian, an author of vivid sceneries, character-sets with a gradual release of significances, played with the mirror effects through a background panel which is, almost miraculously, now translucent, now reflective, now light-tight, sliding towards the forestage, leaning, rising, shifting the actors and the viewers through reflection, following rules of the optical theories in physics. The rules also apply to the side panels, from the stage wings, and they can also be rotated, with a support mobility for the facilities of the central “wall,” which in the end is lifted, becoming a ceiling and then vanishing from sight. Visual art supports theatre and facilitates the transfer to the spectator, as part of this micro-universe which is the show, although nobody has to move from their comfortable chairs. The mirror box where Pricop and Damian introduced the public is augmented by the effects of the revolving stage, and together they generate a dynamic that is distributed on all dimensions and directions, in all the epic stages when the theatrical action reaches its climax. Apart from this whole image, there is also computer animation: geometric lines and shapes kinetically cutting out a highway and a bus in motion, a pavement where the characters are walking, the calligraphy in the mother’s letters, the deductive reasoning in Christopher’s head or the tube, the underground in London, unifying and completing the virtual scenography. More often than not in the multimedia shows, computer graphics are redundant to the text and the action on stage as it aims at striking and teasing the retina. Here, the virtual layer is incorporated organically; it is part of the aesthetics, serving it through visual resolutions. The hi-tech and multimedia elements are among the constant features and artistic support components of Pricop’s directing poetics. There is no traditional scenery; the visual content is generated on the visual level of a multimedia image, a fictional environment where the characters move and give depth to the story. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time is a show telling a story, a trajectory along which the character sorts out not only the enigma of a dog’s death but especially where he begins to understand the world of the grown-ups. This is a trajectory of a detective, at the end of which the enigmas, especially the one related to the nature of what makes us human, are sorted out.

As a territory of perpetual search and innovation, over time the theatre has eroded its classic relationship with the public whom it has to seduce. The “rebellious” categories claim new experiences, so much so in the present, when the pace of aesthetics changes so fast. Being in a special relationship with the young public whom he addresses directly, Pricop staged The Green Cat, by Elise Wilk, [iii] using the silent disco system for the very first time in Romania. Conceived in a “chamber” format, the production brings together actors and spectators in the same space, a club rebuilt on the stage, “Periphery,” which emphasizes the mapped contours of a city through shapes and lines. The visual references of the sets (Irina Moscu) reveal the contours of an urban architecture of the suburbs through sharp angles, broken lines, grey parched surfaces. In the center, a slightly raised floor renders a geometrical Google Maps–styled network. This is not merely a reference to an urban geography; it also suggests the life routes that the adolescent characters must cross until they find their place in their adult lives. The set’s walls enclose the small world of the club only apparently, in fact, the walls are creating a new world, opening powerful imaginary trajectories in the souls and the minds of spectators. This is a space for those who seek existential adventures, an area isolated from the rest of the external world. It is just perfect for this one-hour escape from reality, which the show ultimately represents. The texture of the space is thick, swallowing everybody into its fabric, compressing text, music, image, lighting in 120 square meters. The set’s design edifice emphasizes the connection between a certain place and certain behavior, enmeshing the imaginary world of the play and the everyday world of the public. This space becomes a capsule in which the actors and viewers “travel” theatrically through the lives of six adolescents, who collide with reality at high speed. The place shapes relations, the public breathe together in the tragic series of events at the end of which you find out, almost like in Hamlet, that the essence of this world is living your life before you die! The urban tragedy of Dani, Bianca, Boogie, Robert, Roxana, and Flori is shown in its inward detail, the acting space being simultaneously traversed by naiveté, bitterness, lyricism, need for love and unhappiness, states of mind that temporarily engage a community outside of the big world beyond the set’s walls.

At the entrance, the viewers (no more than 75) receive headphones through which they hear the show. In an episode of human history in which, as individuals, we turn to ourselves in the false conviction that we no longer need each other, the forms of relating to others also undergo some changes. Silent disco is the perfect example of contemporary isolation, as it shows what it is like to be alone when you are physically in the company of others. It is a way of turning inwards, illustrating the tendencies of contemporary societal autism.

In Pricop’s show, silent disco is not just a technical solution fancied by the young public. It is not a mere addition of ornamental technology but the staging development of the structural idea of the play and theatre mechanisms. From the point of view of theatricality, the system operates an individualized reception: every spectator receives a  customized message through the headphones and processes it according to their emotional codes while in the company of the other hearers. The headphones ensure the clandestine nature and intimacy of the message, and they weave fiction into real life. Music is played continually, and the selection of the playlist follows the harmony of the sound and the beat with that of the text. They are rhythm variations in accordance with the theatre and the action it needs to nuance and delay. The sonorous narrative becomes an atmosphere and effect booster; it holds the story together, articulating it on the audio level. Music plugs everybody into the story and keeps them there. This is a new type of interaction which turns the public into active and inclusive participants through exercises of reciprocal group influence. This is a theatrical formula which brings people closer and turns the show into a collective experience of simultaneity.

Customised communication is kept on both the visual and the environmental level: the viewers do not sit in reserved seats; they are allowed to move around in each sequence, relating to the performative composition as they please, interacting with the actors. There are no seats or spots for the viewers to take, just mobile cubes and niches where they can sit at will. After the initial confusion, the theatre stereotypes disappear, and the spectators move around in the theatrical space, listening to and dancing with the characters. The actors look like the spectators, and they do the same thing to some extent, only some tell their story while the others listen to it, shaping their own performance. Within some staged limits, each category builds its own performative design rationally and emotionally. Through its representation power, music activates cognitive and emotional areas that no other external stimulus can touch. The reactions are kinetic—we involuntarily swing to its rhythm, tapping it on the level of mental representation. Music impacts and opens the gates of imagination, triggering a wide range of states of mind: it gives us energy, it (un)settles us, it has cathartic resources. In The Green Cat music saturates perception, mediating this mutual experience in an empathetic fusion. Associated with dancing, especially in the first part of the club party, it becomes a physical expression of freedom, and its artistic role is the changes of energies and the formation of the micro-community in “Periphery.” The show grows out of these unseen special connections.

The firm theatrical separation between fiction and reality is blurred, the public rubbing shoulders with the actors in this socializing space where a few adolescents confess their story. They do it without relating to the others. Elisa Wilk’s narrative and fragmented theatre gets to be a “one to one” storytelling, adjusting the relationships between actors and spectators, the theatrical space and time. There are no main-secondary characters to observe from the “other” side. The public becomes characters in their turn; the viewers are, chorally, part of the cast.

ACTORS AS PARTNERS

Bobi Pricop does not use the actors as instruments; he does not see them as merely a channel of communication, the “voice” through which the director or playwright speaks. The actors play fictions and relations, life stories in a kind of accessible yet unexpected theatrical expression. The frontal acting is totally abolished, the six interpreters mingle with the public in the space; sometimes you cannot tell them from the public. When the spectators enter, the actors are already in the “Periphery,” this space which is detached from the rest of the world, unusual as a scenery device; they dance and welcome the newcomers. The actors do not impersonate psychological characters; they are like any other clubber, with the difference that their task is to tell the others the deeds of some kids in a play.

More often than not in Pricop’s shows, some actors play several roles: Ioana Manciu—the Girl and the Prosecutor in Backyard Games; Marian Politic—Teach’ and the TV presenter, Raluca Păun—Anca, Anca’s Mother, Mara’s Mother, the Romanian Teach’, TV presenter, Cătălin Vieru—Andrei, Andrei’s Mother, the Headmaster, TV presenter in The Religion Teach’; Emilian Oprea—the father, a pastor, a policeman, another policeman, a plumber, the neighbour in The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-TimePricop casts one actor in multiple roles not just to activate the versatile possibilities of the actors, taking advantage of their professional and technical flexibility, but to help them reveal all the people that live within them. He does this to make the public see beyond the actor, compelling them to dissociate the binomial in the psychological theatre which supposes an interpreter equals one character. He distances the character from the interpreter, revealing the actor as an element of the convention. Thus, the spectator sees and understands post-dramatically, beyond the performer. The actors in Pricop’s shows do not pretend; they let the public see that they are playing, purposefully setting themselves free from the tradition of assuming the role psychologically. In The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Emilian Oprea finds distinct nuances for each of the six characters in which he is cast. Even when, to make that possible, there is nothing else he can do but quickly swap chairs, in those nano-seconds, he is completely metamorphosed. Ana Ciontea also plays a few little parts—an aged person, the director of the school, a ticket vendor, a passer-by—perfectly matching the vernacular language, movement, gestures, stereotyped reactions.

One of Pricop’s qualities, which makes him an inventive theatre artist, is that he knows how to work with young actors, whom he spots and puts to work: Ioana Manciu—Backyard Games; Ciprian Nicula—The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time; Ioana Natalia Corban, Dragoș Maftei, Carmen Mihalache, George Cocoș, Alex Iurașcu, and Camelia Dilbea—The Green Cat. Backyard Games [iv] is intense, well structured, with five remarkable debutants in the cast, whose high performance is the result of their work with the director. The text of the Israeli playwright Edna Mazya documents a real case: the rape of an adolescent girl by four boys a few years older than her. Using modern strategies of theatre writing, the play declines sentences, rendering mere facts, focusing on the opinions of all those involved. Pricop had almost no budget, the actors played in casual clothes, but he compensated through his directorial imagination, while the cast played energetically, revealing all their artistic potential. Undoubtedly talented, well led by the director, the young actors render a surprising collection of nuances, shaping their characters with a skill which more experienced actors often lack. Their performance is all the more remarkable as their only resources were their youth and the zest of those who begin a profession in earnest. Ioana Manciu had a spark. Moving easily and naturally from the adolescent who braves a childish flirtation with the older boys in the courtyard of her block of flats, to the mature and chill prosecutor who has to judge facts judicially, the actress shone in both complex roles (the victim and her defender), which she played alternately. The transforming process is not hidden: while she is donning the prosecutor’s jacket and tying her hair, no longer than a few seconds, the actress changes radically through facial expression, posture, attitude, and tone of voice. This is the consequence of some quick and flexible inner processes, a result of the actress’s cerebral nature and perfect control of her means. That is where the strength underlying Pricop’s wonderful creation lies.

Pricop knows how to choose his cast and how to make the actors understand the protagonists. “The ideal for an actor would be to grow in a team who wishes to achieve the best performance, the director believes. (. . .) As long as there is a grain of enthusiasm, we can start from it.” In The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Ciprian Nicula plays his main part as a composition focused on voice, facial expression, posture. The kid with Asperger syndrome played by Nicula is a complicated character with emotional problems, and the actor knows how to strike a balance between the text and the body expressivity that defines the disease.

The Religion Teach’ [v] is built on a cinematographic structure, with short sequences that succeed dynamically. This is not psychological theatre; the play is exposed (each actor impersonates several characters, using the elements of setting or costume available, moving naturally and swiftly through the attributed scores) in this testimonial show, which reveals prickly issues in the local education system, without any bias. In the background, there are also recurring references to manipulation mechanisms, to the way that religion is taught in Romanian schools, to the contents of the textbooks studied, to the relations among the factors involved in the children’s education, to the psychology of the little ones. It is a complex show without being overloaded, one that is cleverly supervised and that traverses the layers of reality and engages its viewers emotionally. The viewer’s reaction is stimulated through an unmediated approach, while the classical relations among characters are turned into relations with the spectators to raise their awareness of the topic presented. The episodic structure supports the play’s factual accuracy, as the staging logic follows its course. The documented investigation highlights acute problems of public life, drawing attention to them, calling for a reaction. The Religion Teach’ is a sample of theatre which states an attitude and reveals the director’s lucidity in a proposition which approaches artistic communication ironically.

The Religion Teach’
Photo Credit: National Theatre Marin Sorescu Craiova

FACT AND FICTION 

Thematic mobility led Pricop mainly to areas of hot issues, contrasts, fractures, side-slips. His critical availability found its expression in the combination of fiction and the factual document, a trend he experimented with in this production. In a work in progress, Pricop and Mihaela Michailov, a playwright specializing in educational theatre, documented a real case using fine caricature as a basis for the aesthetic register. The director staged the play around the text, a process in which the cast took part, careful to preserve this piece of reality, adding elements from everyday life or autobiographic history. This was a collaborative exercise, in which the director was in charge of the whole preparation process, dealing at the same time with the staged version, direction, scenography and soundtrack. The initial story is that of a female student who states that the religion teacher fondled her knees, a confession supported by a colleague who renders the situation even more ambiguously. The perspective is broadened through theatre elements, the script following several topical trends in Romanian education: the contents of school curricula, the class atmosphere, the relationships among teachers in the teachers’ common room, the status of teaching staff, family, the media, especially the audiovisual, and so forth. According to the codes of documentary theatre, the show is woven from several angles—students, teachers, parents, specialists, authorities, press—launching perspectives which are translated for the stage, putting the task of piecing everything together on the viewers’ shoulders.

The topics of the day approached by Pricop return in thematic knots and claim modern staging formulas, especially created by the director for each new show. Pricop will not stick to familiar and artistically comfortable stylistic frames. Through each project, he experiments with new aesthetics of invented forms.

In Against Love, by Esteve Soler, [vi] Pricop used a script of his own in which he includes a few scenes from the other two parts of the Catalan author’s trilogy, also from Against Democracy and Against Progress. The plays are a series of dramatic moments collected from reality, then stylized, episodes with only two or three characters, which are absurdly surrealistic, non-epic, discursive, ironically revealing states of mind and characters which are representative of the recent history of the individual’s evolution. The elements in the setting are plain, essential, made from light white paper or Plexiglas illuminated from within, and the costumes amplify the features of the actors wearing them. In the background, there are mainly nonfigurative projections, collages selected by the director and the scenographer. Their role is not that of visual accompaniment, but they create a context and connect elements of the serial stories. Through staging, Pricop adds a semantic layer to the irony of the text, revealing the spirit of the author and organically augmenting the absurd tragic-comic aspects. The show has the science fiction look of a world of the future analyzed clinically, sketching the empty individual in various social and family hypostases. Individuals have lost the meaning of what it is like to be human, being de-vitalized; when it comes to being parents, they take parenting lessons, and when it comes to loving somebody, they need supplements.

Deeply human topics and mature emotions—family, love, friendship—are underlying themes in Ivan Vârâpaev’s Illusions. [vii] The play narrates in an apparently un-theatrical way the histories of four people, two couples of family friends in their old age, who, approaching death, play retrospectively with their own past in a “what if it had been in fact different?” game. What if the “official” story of their years of marriage and friendship fails to match the view of each of them? What if the truth should have another side to it, known by one/some of them, and now it would be revealed through confession or invention? Everything is allowed. What could be the harm in it? Four seniors aged over 80 have their own versions of their own love life and marital chronology, which they take turns telling in storytelling episodes.

On the stage, the emotional diagonal lines of the couples Danny-Sandra and Albert-Margaret are traced in a ludic but firm manner by a directing vision focused on storytelling and on rendering it dynamic through staging. Pricop delivers the story step by step, in a settled tempo, animating it exactly in those moments when he is at risk of losing the public’s attention. Monotony is purposefully used in Vârâpaev’s writing, and to counter it Pricop appealed to a real-time shooting, shifting the perspective of the gaze and focusing it on the actors’ facial expression; a game of silhouettes cut out from cardboard on the spot, which created an infantile comic; or using scenery techniques without masking it in any way—a mini-revolving stage worked manually, a fan spraying “flakes,” a system that brings rain on the stage where the actors play. The staging fluency supports the text and gives the actors points where they can reinforce their acting. Pricop’s vision is organic; it is a staging in which every element is set in place in a system whose capacity to work is efficiently calibrated. Directing follows exactly Vârâpaev’s statement that “the only form of communication in the present is the means of communication itself.” Subsequently is the way in which the actors relate to the public in the first place and very little with one another: in other words, a deconstruction of canonical theatre, rendering the truth of what the Russian author said.

RISING QUESTION MARKS

“It is dangerous to try to meet all expectations, likewise it is dangerous to give up the expectations you set for yourself,” Pricop argues. He would like to do film and to be engaged in staging projects as an actor, at least once a year. Right now, the theatre is a full-time job, taking all his time. Varying from one production to the other, pursuing thematic nuclei that cross from one performance to another, especially those on the topic of young generations, and underlying constant features of his poetics, Pricop is the kind of director focused on directing the text, the actors and the public on principles of creative democracy, enforcing the logic of the course of action during rehearsals but remaining the main element of force in the team. The term “method” would be restrictive in his case, so I would rather call those features stylistic lines, like the passion for the contemporary story and storytelling, the artistic synergy built of a team engagement asserted from the very beginning, without any strict hierarchies of creative strength. He is open-minded, optimistic, self-critical.

He aesthetically legitimizes each project through an inner need for originality, and the collaborating actors and theatres are delighted with his rehearsing style, which is balanced, calm, impartial, perfectly normal. Characterized by a gentle authority, which pursues the stimulation of everybody’s creativity, virtually the public’s at the same time, without imposing his own point of view, he intervenes as an ordering instance when it is needed. He works in a relaxed but focused manner, piecing together all levels of theatre. As far as the theatre’s ins and outs are concerned, and with regard to its power to touch the world and maybe change it, Pricop believes that “the theatre may rise question marks, may urge you to look into yourself, it may meet some spiritual needs. However, it is an evolution that may occur only at the level of the individual and it always comes from within. Theatre may stimulate you, it may speed up a change that is already there.”

His plans are not to reinvent the theatre or to defy the history of staging art but to build strong innovative theatrical architectures that confirm his calling. These have ensured his solid place on the platform of the new generations of directors. Unlike other colleagues of the new wave, who have been now up and now down, while some have remained promising talents, he has had a constant professional and quality trajectory, reconfirmed by a positive press reaction, a full agenda, and a fast working tempo, with important collaborations. Pricop is always keen on the ensemble, without losing sight of details, preoccupied with significances which touch humanity through a modern and plain aesthetic language. His is a deeply empathetic theatre.

English translation: Miruna Andriescu

Bobi Pricop graduated from Spiru HaretUniversity of Bucharest—the School of Theatre—Acting (2008), National University of Theatre and Cinematography I.L. Caragiale (NUDC), Bucharest—Directing Theatre (2011, Professor Tudor Mărăscu’s class) and holds an MA in Theatre and Directing (2013, Professor Alexandru Darie’s class). In 2011, he staged Backyard Games by Edna Mazya, BA NUDC examination, a show taken over by Act Theatre of Bucharest, which has brought him numerous awards and festival selections (Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress in the NUDC Graduates’ Gala 2011; the award for Directing at the Short Theatre Festival Oradea 2012; the show was invited within the Semaine des cultures étrangères à Paris 2011, FEST FDR Timişoara 2012,  Underground Festival Arad 2012, International Theatre Festival Sibiu 2012, Demoludy Olsztyn Festival Poland, FNT Bucharest 2012), Skupi Festival Macedonia 2012, International Theatre Festival for Youth Iaşi 2013. He also staged: Humpty Dumpty by Eric Bogosian, Ioan Slavici Classic Theatre Arad (2011), Against Progress by Esteve Soler, L.S. Bulandra Theatre Bucharest (2013), Amalia Respire Profondèment / Amalia Breathes Deeply by Alina Nelega, Théâtre Les Déchargeurs, Paris, 2013 (a show that participated at the Avignon Festival 2014—OFF); Religion Teach’ by Mihaela Michailov, at Marin Sorescu National Theatre Craiova (2013, the public awarded prize at the Theatre Biennial “New plays from Europe” Wiesbaden Germany); Illusions by Ivan Vârâpaev, Marin Sorescu National Theatre Craiova (2015); Ashes Afar by Andreea Borţun, Vanner Company, Edinburgh Fringe (2015), the award for the best performance, the best actress (Crissy O’Donovan) and the award for dramaturgy at the Bucharest Fringe Festival; Green Cat by Elise Wilk, Luceafărul Theatre Iaşi (2015, nominated for the Directing award at UNITER Gala), The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time after Mark Haddon, National Theatre Bucharest (2016)

Oltița Cîntec is a theatre critic, PHd in Theatre Studies, curator for several important theatre festivals in Romania, theatre consultant, theatre project supervisor. Author of several contemporary theatre and performance critic, theatre theory and history volumes, many of which have been awarded prizes (Teatrografii/Theatre Writings Timpul Press 2008; Hermeneutici Teatrale/Theatre Hermeneutics Niculescu Press, 2010; Silviu Purcărete Sau Privirea Care Infăţişează /SilviuPurcărete or the Revealing Gaze Cheiron-TeatrulAzi Press, etc.) and co-author of several collective volumes published both in Romania and abroad (the most recent – “Theatre Epiphany. Alexander Hausvater, from Teibele And Her Daemon To Golem”, in the bilingual volume Golem, Mit Si Spectacol Cu Regizorul Alexander Hausvater/ Golem, Myth And Performance With The Artistic Director Alexander Hausvater, ICR Press, 2014; Tânărul Artist De Teatru. Istorii românești Recente/The Young Theatre Artist. Recent Romanian Histories, Timpul Press, 2015, Regia românească, De La Act De Interpretare La Practici Colaborative/Romanian Theatre Directing, From Authorship To Collaborative Practices, Timpul Press 2016, Teatrul Românesc De Azi. Noi Orizonturi Estetice/Romanian Theatre Today. New Horizons, Timpul Press 2017, which she also coordinated). Her articles and studies are published in prestigious academic magazines of theatre and culture in Romania and abroad, such as Critical Stages, Hystrio, Colloquium Politicum, Euresis, Philologica Jassyensia, Studii Si Cercetări De Istoria Artei, Colocvii Teatrale, Suplimentul De CulturăObservator Cultural, Timpul, Scena, Scena.ro, Teatrul Azi, Adevărul Literar Si Artistic. Convorbiri Literare, Rampa, Dacia Literară, Cronica, Ateneu, etc. She lectured on the Romanian theatre both in the country and abroad (the latest – Forms Of Theatrical Newness In Romania: A Post-communist Case Study, to the  BITEF Belgrad Festival  2016, XXVIIIth Congress of the International Association of Theatre Critics). She was nominated twice for the UNITER Award for Theatre Criticism (2007, 2012). She is currently the president of the International Association of Theatre Critics/ Romania (AICT.RO – IATC.RO).

Notes:

[i] In Teatrul Azi magazine, no. 7-8-9/2015, pp.13739. All subsequent quotes are from this interview. 

[ii] Ion Luca Caragiale, National Theatre of Bucharest 2016; translation: Andrei Marinescu; cast: Ciprian Nicula, Emilian OpreaAna Ciontea, Rodica Ionescu, Carmen Ungureanu; director: Bobi Pricop; adaptation: Simon Stephens; scenography: Adrian Damian; costumes: Liliana Cenean; music: Alexei Turcan; video: Dan Adrian Ionescu, Mizdan; lighting design: Andrei Florea. 

[iii] Luceafărul Theatre of Iaşi2015, cast: Dani – Dragoș MafteiBianca – Ioana Corban, Boogie  Alex IurașcuRobert  George CocoșRoxana – Carmen MihalacheFlori –Camelia Dilbeadirected by Bobi Pricop; scenography: Irina MoscuThis show brought Bobi Pricop his first nomination at the UNITER Awards, Direction Panel. My assertions here about the show are not axiological, so they do not clash deontologically with my status as a producer, as an artistic director of the International Festival for Young Audience, whose associate artist Bobi Pricop was (the 8th edition). The assertive remarks are strictly about the show. 

[iv] Act Theatre Bucharest, 2011, cast: Ioana ManciuPavel UliciFlorin HriţcuCezar GrumăzescuVlad Pavel. 

[v] Marin Sorescu National Theatre of Craiova, 2012, cast: Marian Politic, Dragoş MăceşanuRomaniţa Ionescu, tălin VieruRaluca unadaptation, directing, scenography, soundtrack: Bobi PricopIn 2014, at the Biannual Drama Contest New plays from Europe” Wiesbaden, Germany, the show got the public’s award. 

[vi] Piatra Neamţ Youth Theatre, 2014, translation: Luminiţa Voina-Răuţcast: Nora CovaliCezar AntalCorina GrigoraşDragoș Ionescu, Ecaterina HâţuLucreţia MandricAlexandra SuciuFlorin HrițcuLoredana GrigoriuRareş PîrlogOctavian doi directed by: Bobi Pricop; scenography: Adriana Dinulescu; music: Cezar Antal; video illustration: Bobi Pricop and Adriana Dinulescu. 

[vii] Marin Sorescu National Theatre of Craiova, 2015; translation Bogdan Budeş; cast: Romanița Ionescu, Ioana Manciu, Claudiu Mihail/Cătălin Băicuș, Vlad Udrescu; cello: Orlando Buda; directed by:  Bobi Pricop; scenography:  Andreea Simona Negrilă.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.