You are not allowed to suffer! - Interview with Claudio Collovà / 2007

Eight blindfolded actors stand apart and isolated from the visual signs of the outside world in one space - or eight separate spaces, it’s equal. The noise of the outside world is the only thing that can remain for them based on the director’s instructions. The actor’s job is to first turn in the direction of any new noise and memorize the sound. An actor has to let himself fill up slowly with the various fragments of sound, allow himself to get filled with his own internal noise built up by his memory in ordinary silence. And embrace every sound: turn it into a single movement, either a tilt of a finger or a shaking of the whole upper body - turn it into something that the sound means to him. Allow his veins to get filled up with sounds so that he feels the sound is not coming from outside but from inside, and not just noise but disease. Until there is nothing else in there. Nothing but Woyzeck's hallucinations.

For a good half hour - at least for an uninhibited-eyed observer - (almost) nothing happens: the actors are rotating, taking a few steps. Another half hour, and the ability of navigation is visibly lost: the director is always there where someone is about to walk against a wall, a column. Tension - electricity? - in the following half hour these are growing noticeably, the actors are moving nervously, desperately or abandoned. Then the director begins to "play" on a pile of plates, like on an ancient, primitive instrument - the noise strains even the nerves of the open-eyed observer. The bodies are throbbing, the intention behind the movements no longer can be felt, as the director, like a snake charmer, directs his "victims"; one of them breaks, his body contracting convulsively. And finally another Woyzeck can't take it anymore and crouches on the ground like a fetus.

"Now start the dialogue with Baki (Éva Bakos)," the director instructs. "I don't want to talk," replies Artúr Kálid, barely understandable. "Talk," is the answer. And Woyzeck talks. And Marie answers. Then - although she can't see her Woyzeck, it is visible that she doesn't seem to feel exactly where the sound is coming from - finally she lies down on the floor, too.


"The actor's task is to capture, protect and use the state - if you're in the right state, I'll never say okay, don't talk now. That's how you managed to move the dialogue out of its fixed form - it is a result of an hour and a half or two hours of work," explains it Claudio Collovà, the Italian director to Artúr Kálid, who is still under the influence of "hallucinations". - But you are not allowed to suffer, to let your private suffering affect your acting state - he adds. - It is impossible to fit into Woyzeck’s schizophrenic mind without a sense of spiritual sensitivity and empathy. However, the psychodrama is different: there is a coordinator who will tell you how to lose all your self-control and also how to come back from it.

For similar reasons, members of the Maladype Theater Company are not allowed to cry at Claudio Collova's two-week, private Woyzeck-workshop in Budapest. "You have to resist crying - you have to be halfway between losing control over yourself and total self-control," - he now turns to Hermina Fátyol, who was only held back from bursting into tears by the director’s explicit, not so soft-spoken instruction during her post-hallucination dialogue (her Woyzeck was Kristóf Horváth). "It's theater, it's work - It’s not the emotions that play the leading role. It's not like not there are no emotions, it's about being able to control them, - he says. - And still, they always burst into tears. “ he adds with a smile, in private, during a break. And indeed - though he doesn’t throw it to Éva Bakos’s face, when during one of the frozen-aired Woyzeck-Marie improvisations she is “raped” by her Woyzeck-pair. He just asks her to wash her face - and the spectators (the other actors and the journalist) seem to finally take a breath for the first time after long minutes. However it was just a game too.


Claudio Collovà, the Italian theater director and "Woyzeck specialist", and Zoltán Balázs, the artistic director of Maladype, have known each other and each other's theatrical world since 2003. At the time, they were both directors of a Büchner workshop, and - in Collovà’s words - although they had directed two completely different performances, they both represented the same kind of theater. The contact has been maintained ever since, and while Collova held Woyzeck-workshops in several countries, the Italian director's visit to Budapest was planned several times. It finally came together at the beginning of September 2007 - just before Maladype would start rehearsing its new premiere, (also) a Büchner play, Leonce and Lena, directed by Zoltán Balázs. "I'm very happy that Zoltán has invited me, and also that he's so open to new experiences - that's not typical of directors with their own companies, - says Collovà. - It’s great to work with them, maybe just because they know each other well, and so far I’ve worked mostly with actors who came from here and there. These two weeks are not so much, but we have made a huge progress. "

However under progress - fortunately - they don’t mean the classical, theatrical definition of the word, because there is no premiere-urge, the actors and the director do not have to create a performance. “We do not want to achieve results, we want to learn” - states Collovà. However - even if it seems unusual in Hungary - he works the same way, with the same methods, when preparing for a premiere. “You can’t rehearse a performance to be thoroughgoing from scratch in a month or two, you can’t achieve anything in such a little time. I would never direct in a place where that’s the condition - I’m not the director who can direct anything with anyone in any way. I won’t change my methods."

The main basis of the methods - at first glance - is eye contact, sounds, and signs of existence in the physical sense. One of the scenes of Woyzeck and Marie begins with a special dialogue every time: the sound of the dripping of a blanket soaked in "urine" held by Woyzeck, responds to the sounds of a pile of plates vocalized by Marie (the noise of the plates perfectly shows the inner sounds exclusively in Woyzeck's head). At other times, the actors spend a whole day analyzing a picture of a 20th-century abstract painter, Francis Bacon, and perfectly capturing the posture depicted on it (for example, the two monkey-like figures lying together in solitude — according to Collovà, their relationship is just the same as Woyzeck and Marie’s).

"We're talking about physical things - but that's not the point, it's not the endpoint, it's just the way to achieve everything we need to" - the director puts it. And that is: the stage presence, the acceptance that the existence of an actor is made possible by the other actor at all. - To understand: it's not you who chooses - you're the consequence of the other's existence. And that can't be achieved by psychologizing, by constantly portraying beauty," he says.

And it can't be reached on stage with narration nor with illustrative elements - he explains to Ádám Tompa, who - before laying his Marie on the floor (Katalin Simkó, the most recently joined member of Maladype) - neatly arranges the blanket on the floor, just like he is explaining something. "It's so too clear. There's no need to explain everything on stage - he says. - The spectator is much smarter, understands much more than the actor usually imagines.

“But - he adds face to face again -, if you would watch one of my performances, you’ll also see narration in it, without getting instructions to understand what and how it fits together, what and how follows each other. It will be a whole different kind of personal narrative. "


"It's Woyzeck - Collovà answers, - because the piece is still opened to me after all this time, there's still something to search for after all this time. Maybe it's because it's made up of fragments, it's not sealed. It gives you freedom in working with it. And the characters are very interesting, especially Marie and Woyzeck - I think they are the archetypes of the human race.Their problems are important not only for themselves but for the whole humanity. The more I deal with them, the more I discover about them. Of course, it also depends - he adds - , whom I work with. What is happening here in Budapest with Maladype is very intense, since I have been here, such things have happened that I have not seen before ... If I have the opportunity - if Zoltán invites me -, I would be very happy to direct a Woyzeck performance with them. "

The end of Claudio Collovà's "own Woyzeck" would be an old, yellow photograph with three Woyzeck and three Marie standing - all six with their eyes closed, listening to a ballad. To the question of whether he has already directed this, he answers with a laugh: "Not yet - maybe next time, in Budapest ..."

Bálint Kovács, Magyar Narancs, 2007

Translation by Zsuzsanna Juraszek