Slovensko narodno gledališče Nova Gorica

"A melodrama which slides into broken dreams"

Maxim Gorky



on programme

This performance doesn't have any called terms at the moment.


10. January 2008

about text

Summerfolk … they meet, exchange opinions, flatter and insult each other, chatter and lament, create poetry, crack jokes, are bored, philosophize, yearn, love, hate and despise …

"The summerfolk are all the same. In five years I have seen – an infinite number of them. They seem like a bubble on a puddle ... it jumps and it bursts," are the words the guard Pustobaika uses to describe them. And indeed, the summerfolk are similar to each other: they live lives quite different from their youthful ideals, their days pass in idleness and daydreaming, but also in yearning for something different they are not able to realize ...

In Summerfolk, Maxim Gorky, one of the doyens of the Russian literature (himself deeply influenced by A. P. Chekhov's playwriting) arrays moods, confronts different characters’ dispositions and comprehension of the world and allows the spectator to make a mosaic of human destinies, seen through a slightly comic prism; destinies united in fierce endeavour to oust boredom and escape the void, and a desire to leave behind the life of idleness and take a more active role in the world.

Summerfolk come on stage under the direction of one of the most interesting European directors Paolo Magelli, a controversial artist, a cosmopolite and an intellectual who was born in Prato in Tuscany and studied Slavic studies and directing in Florence. He has created more than 140 performances so far: he has directed in Italy, the republics of former Yugoslavia, France, Romania, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, Hungary and Finland. His work has been received with critical acclaim and has won numerous awards.

in media

Nova Gorica is a new and very special city, and its theatre is one of the cornerstones for the survival and identity of this monument to reason and creativity, built upon the new perception of the world – whatever that may have meant then and whatever it means now. This contemporary environment created a truly contemporary performance – based on the script of that innovator from the past, Maxim Gorky, a critic and a creator, an authentic poet and a protagonist of all the best and the worst that was socialism. Summerfolk is a sharp criticism of the age an the society at the turn of the last century in Russia, and indirectly all over Europe. Maxim Gorky looked into every stratum of the society and civilisation and his criticism is similar to the criticism of Rodin, Diderot, Michelangelo, Tolstoy, Marx, Buddha and the entire Dada movement – rolled into one.
Paolo Magelli, a theatre magus with renaissance power chose Gorky and his unfortunate summerfolk – the citizens of some European Lilliput – and placed them into hapless circumstances, the kind of circumstances Voltaire, this diamond sharp critical mind of the French classical thought from the Enlightenment and the author of Candide, would have placed them into, or as if they were characters of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Rableais's ironic reflection on his own century. Paolo Magelli responded to the invitation of the great dramatist Gorky and danced the ironic dance macabre with the impending dangers of our century. Magelli changed the bizarre threats of stratification and the decay of morals – characteristics for the decadent finish of the nineteenth century - into a grotesque play of passion, misunderstanding and the incapability to be human. By using wonderfully provocative theatre techniques – placing summer holidays in the atmosphere of a naturalist resort and sexual greed – he managed to link the dismay of lost hopes and the documentarism of Wilhelm Reich and his experiments of sexual therapy. The power of this renaissance intervention took hold of Nova Gorica stage, cast and audience; it amalgamated the knowledge and experience of all previous theatre accomplishments and cleared the way for new theses of the – by all means post-modern – critical narrative, worthy of Marx or Hegel. However, the spirit of dada act permeated the entire performance and linked it to the genius of Buñuel, the author of The Milky Way and Viridiana. The spirit of grotesque and the passion of the stage ousted the narrow-minded realism, which resided in the world of a pathetic smallholder and a vain half-intellectual. The performance is an overt challenge to the weak and wearisome spirit that makes the best of Europe wither away. The sharp and powerful criticism of all kinds of decadence and petit bourgeois delusions about morals, responsibility, the intellectual as the torch bearer of development, revolt, women's question … gave wings to this unbelievable performance, which restores our faith in theatre capable of changing the world. Paolo Magelli showed one more time that the power of a European intellectual lies in his ability to think critically and in the ability to articulate this thought through a modern artistic expression. It seems excellent that this far-reaching performance was staged in Nova Gorica: the city that was conceived and created for future and whose new, integrative face now expresses new thought of progress and protest from the spirit of logical and authentic criticism. The breath and the spirit of progress emanated from every sequence of this rich and powerful performance, which will have to be performed on all European stages in order to fulfil its mission of encouraging new confidence for classical critical materialism, enriched with all the painful experience of the last three centuries. All the SNG Nova Gorica actors did their best to enter the mysterious passages of revolt, irony and the outcry of reason – both Gorky's and Magelli's – the thought that is European, cosmopolitan, antiglobalistic – cosmic. The scenographer Lorenzo Banci created – like an echo of pop-art – a metaphorical desert, in which the split between the high and the low is accentuated. In this enormous and grotesque space all the characters live (and "happen") simultaneously, like in a dizzying baroque tableau. They triumphed and perished – disappeared into the crevices of the earth and emerge from them once more; they wandered through the vastness of this twisted, phantom-like landscape, as if trying to conquer some unknown world of some future dream. This scenography alone deserves a performance of its own, indeed, a philosophy and art of its own. The time that's coming is the age of changes and Grand Topics and Maxim Gorky must be resuscitated and presented in a contemporary way. Summerfolk was a good start for that. Glory hallelujah!

Goran Cvetković, Radio Beograd 2, Thursday 17 January 2008.

Had we not known the name of the author, we wouldn't have known that Maxim Gorky wrote Summerfolk over a century ago: director Paolo Magelli removed all social connotations from the text and used it to expose every painful detail of a modern human's existential dimension. The staging is further supported by the artistic and material dimensions of Lorenzo Banci's suggestive scenography: it determines the poise of the actors as it requires a certain tension in the body, while at the same time enabling the release from the spasm of emptiness, the meaninglessness of life. Thus he in fact added another dimension to the Summerfolk and deepened it even further with the music by the Romanian composer Alexander Balanescu. The abstract landscape and the precise rhythm are the set for a film montage of fragments in life of men and women, the members of the bourgeois intelligence, the fragments that blend together and are then dispersed into nothingness. The characters appear on the horizon, search for each other, hate and love each other, break accepted social norms but at the same time do not dare to peek out of their safe and settled world. In the fourteen-member cast every role is equal, and equally demanding. Every single one of them is a masterpiece. The Nova Gorica ensemble completed their task cum laude, and the same can be said for each individual actor. /…/ Summerfolk open their every dimension to the audience. Their search for the exit from the existential void blends into a tableau of emotions, bodily existence, thoughts and destructive states of the contemporary man without courage, which is a necessary condition for any kind of change.
Lea Širok, Radio Koper, 11 January 2008

The interpretation of the roles is energetic and the actors proved yet again that they are a harmonious and finely tuned ensemble, which skilfully tackled the steep set, some sort of an enormous dune that took up all the space on stage in a very original and effective way.
Iva Koršič, Novi glas, 10 January 2008

A mosaic of intertwining human destinies is supported by the harmonised ensemble performance of the actors (including two guests, Ajda Toman and Danijel Malalan). From this equally powerful cast it feels almost indecent to single out any individual performance, yet I cannot but at least mention Alida Bevk as the painfully split Varvara Mihailovna, Primož Pirnat as her husband Sergei and Helena Peršuh as Maria, forced into despair long before her time.
Gregor Butala, Dnevnik, 14 January 2008

We live in a time that rediscovers old revolutionaries, the authors that were pushed aside and almost forgotten. Thus Sebastijan Horvat triumphantly rehabilitated Matej Bor and his Raztrganci and Paolo Magelli Maxim Gorky and his Summerfolk. The director sacrificed the social aspect of the play to emphasize the existential one, and held out the mirror to the world: although Summerfolk was written by a man called Gorky (meaning “bitter” in Russian and “hot” in Slovene), the world of the Summerfolk is cold and inured, without a trace of Chekhov's nostalgia and melancholy. The title role is, of course, again played by the Nova Gorica ensemble, once again breathing as one. /…/
Stage designer Lorenzo Banci sets /the performance/ on some sort of a hill, a hummock. /…/
The set could be a sunny seaside, a tilled ground, a patch of scorched grass. It is a hummock that miserable people mount and, despite their Sisyphean efforts, keep rolling onto the other side. Among their loved ones. Or, as one of Gorky's fans, old master Jean-Paul Sartre would put it: they are and continue to be hell for each other.
Andraž Gombač, Primorske novice, 14 January 2008

Still retaining its epic disposition, but with a clear textual intervention focusing on (instead on the socio-political issues of the early twentieth century Russia) existential questions of individuals – this is director Paolo Magelli's approach to this bitter comedy.
And since nothing much in fact happens among the holidaymakers – a characteristic of contemporary playwriting – Summerfolk can be successfully anchored into contemporary drama. Of course, the story of the middle classes (at the moment broadcast live in the Slovene society) is still alive, but Magelli focuses more on the protagonists themselves. It is interesting to notice, that there is no main role – neither in the play nor in the performance –, there are merely clear destinies, harmonized onto the same scale. It is a case of a collective psychosis, which doesn't choose its victims according to sex or education. Its influence is felt by the intellectuals and by the artists, it affects the mothers and their daughters alike. It is about the restlessness, the feelings of being lost, the feeling of insecurity and intangibility and this can be felt in each individual character and the ensemble as a whole, whether their subtone is comic or serious.
Still, we cannot disregard the fact that the summerfolk like their lives – they cannot do otherwise, these are the only lives they have and are just as miraculously unique as their "owners". This is why they cannot make a clean, early break from them, despite the fact that they are but pale shadow of what they would like to become one day, but never will. And this fact will never cease to exist and will therefore continue to be extremely intriguing, and make, in turn, the Summerfolk alive and intriguing.
Andrej Jaklič, Delo – Polet, 17 January 2008

View complete schedule for the show

  • 22. 12. 2007 at 20.30. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 10. 01. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 11. 01. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 12. 01. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 16. 01. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 17. 01. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 02. 02. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 12. 02. 2008 at 18.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 19. 03. 2008 at 20.00. XI. Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota
  • 20. 03. 2008 at 18.00. XI. Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota
  • 21. 03. 2008 at 20.00. XI. Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota
  • 22. 03. 2008 at 18.00. XI. Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota
  • 23. 03. 2008 at 18.00. XI. Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota
  • 23. 05. 2008 at 20.30. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 19. 09. 2008 at 20.00. SNG Nova Gorica
  • 02. 05. 2020 at 23.47. Internet