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Eestikeelsed artiklid



Vilen Künnapu

Udo Kultermann

Eve Apro, Aharona Israel

Harry Pye

Juhan Ulfsak

Harry Charrington

Reet Ragini Aus

Maxime Stoecker




Harry Pye’s Postcard from London

This was all that came to mind when Kusti asked me to compare theatre and cinema; it wouldn’t have occurred to me to compare them. We could, for example, compare architecture and synchronised swimming, but perhaps some other time. But enough of apologising. Let’s get on with comparing.

Imagine leaping to your feet during the film, should something get on your nerves, and adding a witty comment of your own. Now try to imagine doing the same in theatre. There is probably no shortage of films or performances that provoke this sort of interference. I suggest that during the upheaval in cinema, not a muscle moves in the face of Tom Cruise, and a fan of his talent will escort you out of the hall and hurl popcorn after you. In theatre, on the other hand, an embarrassing silence ensues (I’m relying on experience here), the actor will make a feeble attempt to carry on, but it is obvious that everything has changed. Or, in case of a more resourceful actor, he might reply to your witticism with his own, the audience laughs, the actor sparkles, but even then the performance is not quite the same….

This simple example in fact reveals one of the major differences between watching a film and going to theatre. In the first case, the viewers consume a pre-packaged illusion, in the second case they participate in a real, live process. In the first, both the viewers and Tom Cruise are protected, in the second, nobody is really protected against anything. The film can proceed without a single viewer, whereas in theatre, on the whole, plays are not played to an empty hall. Watching a film is a one-way communication, theatre is a two-way system.

An unexpected death of an actor, for instance, could even have positive promotional effect on the film’s premiere, in theatre, alas, a dead actor must be immediately replaced. Theatre is extremely vulnerable. It expires quickly after the first cough.

Which is easier to watch – a bad film or bad theatre? In my opinion, a bad performance is more difficult to endure – it is the viewer’s personal embarrassing participation that makes it so painful. We all sometimes view an action or another, and nothing happens, and porn is OK too.

Everything said above should function as an advertisement to theatre as a living and ritual field of art, which in its unpredictability is far more exciting and popular than cinema. Alas, it is not so. A cool film is the topic discussed by both intellectuals in restaurants and louts in pubs. Theatre is of no particular interest to anybody except those directly involved in it and girls in tender years of age. I am of course exaggerating but the tendency is clear and objective – if you want to take part in conversation, you must know what’s going on at the Black Nights film festival, but you may calmly ignore the festival called ‘Drama’.

Why and how has theatre gambled away its position in society? The overwhelming opinion blames ‘commercialisation’, musicals, yielding to the taste of the masses, etc. I don’t think it goes quite like that. Commercial theatre – revues, musicals and summer comedies is a totally different world, never even brushing the part of theatre that we call art. We should rather take a critical look at theatre that is trying to tell something to its (contemporary) audience.

Let us imagine a situation where a fervent creator, clutching a copy of Tennessee Williams’s ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, turns to the Estonian Film Foundation with a proposal to film it, truthfully to its era and with psychology in place. No chance of a green light for him.

In theatre, on the other hand – get on with it!

The sponsors would probably argue that the film was made a long time ago, with brilliant Brando, and there was really no point to make it all over again with Estonian actors. Besides, the new era has introduced new topics.

In theatre, paradoxically, the reason to produce this play would be the chance for our beloved actors to play the famous roles. There is bound to be some contemporary flavour in the play too.

I would love to play Kowalski myself, but I am not too convinced whether anybody would care to watch me, in cowboy boots and a bottle of whisky in hand, raving around for two and a half hours. But those willing to do that, are genuine theatre fans. I bow to them. Most sincerely.

Who does not care for that, probably goes to watch a film or modern multidisciplinary dance or a performance of some sort.

Theatre should perhaps best be compared with performances. Let us consider the matter from the point of view of a UFO. So – a UFO sees a film and a theatre production, and everything is immediately clear – cinema shows a row of pictures, depicting reality at 24 shots a second, and the inhabitants of planet Earth sit in darkness and watch it. Theatre, however, involves some inhabitants reciting sentences to other inhabitants who sit in darkness and watch them. Next the UFO goes to a performance, and what does it see – a man walking around with a burning pole and yelling his head off. The UFO must logically conclude that this is someone who was not good enough for cinema or theatre, but it is of course totally wrong. Still, we are not UFOs and some of us know why a man walks around with a burning pole, and some of us hazard a guess.
On the other hand, we here below occasionally feel the closeness of an alien psychology, perceive metaphysical relocations during a rite, find our magical moment and fall into trance. In a word – we have arrived. If ever you hear of a theatre like that, you must go and see it AT ONCE. There is always time for cinema.

Pictures from Von Krahl Theatre performances „Ainult võltsid jäävad ellu”, „Piraadid”, „No More Tears”
Photos: Mark Raidpere, Alan Proosa, Von Krahl Theatre

Juhan Ulfsak

Juhan Ulfsak is an actor at the Von Krahl Theatre, he lives in Tallinn, has played in films and is the member of Esto TV. See also: www.vonkrahl.com