Mindaugas Grigaitis, Justina Paltanavičiūtė
Justina Paltanavičiūtė and Mindaugas Grigaitis discuss the performance “Purge” by Jonas Jurašas, 2011-10-31
"Purge". Photo by Donatas Stankevičius

In brief: Soviet period is still a painful problem of our society. There are many positions and versions of the attitudes towards it.  Younger generations, that have not experienced Soviet times, create their images by hearsay. The topic of the Soviets could become a great source of artistic inspirations but only a few artists use it bravely. The performance “Purge” of Jonas Jurašas is a daring attempt to discuss the topic. His aim is to make Soviet traumas public, to speak about their effects and to declare the possibility of purge.

The performance offers a lively and suggestive story about the life of a person, beaten by ideology. It is the life full of historical tensions and personal pain, caused by the unfulfilled love. The historical and personal lines join in the one-piece tissue and the viewer starts to feel the pulse of a living, certain person rather than an abstract representative of a nation. Surprisingly, the director considers his performance to be the invitation to the whole nation to purge. It seems that he could not avoid the old notion of art as a moralising message.

According to the director, he was interested in the play of Sofi Oksanen because of the importance of problems of violence, helplessness, treason, passionate love and envy.  Since all the themes were tried to be revealed at once, they became too broad-brush and less suggestive. The performance lacked a clear plot line or concrete point of view.

The wish to generalise some of the characters of the performance made them or their emotions one-sided. E.g., Zara’s (actress Elzė Gudavičiūtė) role seemed to be too static – the performer was using the same timbre and emotional charge throughout the performance as if there was no change of situations. The Russian mafia guys (actors Sigitas Šidlauskas, Tomas Erbrėderis, Arūnas Stanionis) had to symbolise the traumatic power and cult of violence but they often looked like caricatural decorations. The main character Allide Truu (Eglė Mikulionytė), however, looked rather dynamic and revealed her inner inconsistence well.

Jurašas stated that maybe after this performance the young generation would become more patriotic and appreciate their country, nation and its values more. Nevertheless, including the topics of non-patriotism and emigration into the performance was rather a standard solution, making the voice of the omniscient moralist louder.

Sofi Oksanen, presenting the idea of her novel and play, accentuates that the raped woman‘s body is the metaphor of a repressed nation. Jurašas might have understood it too directly.  Oksanen‘s position is to highlight the traumatic experience through body, while Jurašas turns to the reflective rendering of trauma rather than bodily one. The trauma could have been expressed through sounds, images, words, even scents and affect the senses more perceptibly.

The music of the performance fused with the image rather organically but also quite primitively. The task of the music should accentuate emotions and create the atmosphere but in this performance it only illustrated certain situations.

As regards the development of the act, the principle of cinematograph that used the narrative strategy to reveal the shift of time periods was realised really well. The change of time layers was simple, comprehensible and served the purpose.

To conclude, the idea to discuss the problems of post-soviet countries should be complimented.  The performance also makes think about one‘s life, the choice of certain actions and the importance of their freedom. The story about the existence of a “minor person” in the Soviet period is a distinctive phenomenon in the field of Lithuanian theatre and literature.


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