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NAKED EUROPE (overview)

The intensity of this provocative theatrical work by the contemporary Croatian dramatist Milko Valent will leave no spectator indifferent.

The theme of the European women in war, the urban women of the Western world at large, as well as the contents of this play are painfully familiar and deceptively straightforward. In a European family,(seen in a wider context as the urban Europe, and -- wider still -- as the urban America) a young urban girl mourns for her fiancé, who fell victim during the occupation of Sarajevo. Along with the girl, her entire family mourns, gather around the coffin in which the young man rests. The mourning takes place in a European city the day prior to the young man's funeral.

Naked Europe is a women's war catastrophe drama, and at the same time a tremendous spectacle of the chaotic decadence of the Western world in general -- the world which, in the paroxysm of wars and terrorism, ends one millennium and begins another. In constructing the play, Valent is truly fantastical, masterfully effective and playful. In plain terms, Valent attempts-- and accomplishes -- to urge the reader and the spectator to enjoy the intense game of chaos of the Western world through a dramaturgical collision of the Pirandellian identity exorcism and Brechtian alienation with the Valentinian provocative hedonism bordering on hilarious tragedy. Through the on-stage appearance of the cheerleaders, those contemporary icons of eroticized and stylized politics, who sing national anthems (French, German, Croatian, British and American,) Valent ironically, though not cynically, throws the "great joy" of our own downfall into the face of the spoiled European and American spectators -- the end of our history, the obvious decadence which unfolds and finished in the orgiastic globalistic tempo in the same way in which, once upon a time, the Roman civilization ceased to exist in the peak of its (then) global power.

Naked Europe is a remarkable, provocative, and unusual work with a good story which is, in spite of its exposition of all the nightmares of our Western civilization, hyper-realistically well motivated. Shortly, Naked Europe is a novelty, a great contribution to the theatrical output, and to the experimental theatrical energy in general, because it succeeds in showing the everyday chaos of a contemporary individual as a universal "controlled chaos" of the continental societal madness (Europe, America) which takes place along with the waving of the intensely colored flags (red, white, and blue.)

Through the use of video, lighting, music, and movement, which ecstatically choreograph the global terror, this play unequivocally corresponds with the eight archetypal characters who, paradoxically, have their individual, contained, family identity. It is that anthem-like celebration of personality which takes place around the black coffin, surrounded by the "family again" motto of the united Europe, and the West in general, and in that coffin lies the deceased youth Robert, every Robert, everyday dead Robert -- all accompanied with flags, wars, anthems and terrorism of every kind.

The spectators exit the theatre entranced, because in the course of an hour and twenty minutes (which is the running time of this play) they have the opportunity to experience, in all its nakedness, the truly naked Europe as well as her legitimate sister, the truly naked America, as they embrace in the extreme sadness, determined to play the deadly card of enjoyment from which there is possibly no return, the enjoyment which is perhaps masochistically beyond this world, the enjoyment which is transcendental.

It is then no surprise that Naked Europe was awarded by the Croatian Ministry of Culture, because such provocative and truthful theatrical work, which with its atmosphere of decadence and terrorist horror anticipated the events of the September 11, 2001 in New York, truly deserves it.

However, all in all, this play will remind us, through the enjoyment of viewing of its experimental new-theatre nerve, that this world still stands a chance. It is as if Valent is recommending a certain optimism which emanates from the otherwise abused eros of the youthful bodies of young cheerleaders, dancing urban girls who are not having an easy time.

Ana Chou

Fragments of the "Naked Europe" theatrical play NakedEurope

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Page last modified on July 22, 2004, at 03:49 PM