Patriarchy, the state, capitalism – everything is driven out with brooms and noise in Nicoleta Esinencu’s performance "The Abolition of the Family" in Berlin.
With rattling and stomping, the ensemble works on the expulsion of evil spirits Photo: Dorothea Tuch
"What is family?" asks Nicoleta Esinencu. And shouts after it, "Away with patriarchy! Away with the traditional family!" Consistently, the Moldovan theater-maker gives her latest performance the title "Abolirea familiei / The Abolition of the Family," setting the stage for seven life stories told on stage at HAU 3 in Berlin. Together with her, Elena Anmeghichean, Cătălina Bucos, Doina-Romanta Dochitan, Elena Sîrbu, Doriana Talmazan and Artiom Zavadovsky have compiled episodes from their lives, where it was difficult and demanding. For most of them, childhood still fell in the Soviet Union. Today, all of them have Moldovan passports.
In the early 1990s, the smallest republic of the USSR, the Moldavian SSR, also declared itself independent. A civil war broke out in which militias loyal to Moscow fought the forces striving for independence. As a result, two mini-states emerged: the officially recognized Republic of Moldova and the internationally unrecognized separatist state Republic of Transnistria.
Corruption continues to dominate state structures in both states to this day. The Russian army has a base in the Republic of Transnistria, and the oligarch who rules the region has a constitutional court in the capital, Tiraspol.
The pension level in both states is extremely low. Her mother’s pension was 65 euros, Esinencu recalls. She was 30 euros short of the subsistence level every month. Playwright Nicoleta Esinencu stands in front of a microphone at HAU3 and tells the medical history of her mother in Moldovan Romanian, who can no longer remember anything after an operation, has to relearn the smallest movements and dies after a three-year period of suffering.
Scalpels from the Soviet era
Esinencu, who calls herself a playwright first and foremost even though she directs her productions, had each performer record his or her story during the rehearsal process and then gave these texts a unifying dramaturgical form. This form is poetic in structure, even in the German subtitles it reads in verse, and judgmental in content.
Thus, with "I give 100 lei to the doctor at the hospital so that I can see my mother. I notice that the scalpels are from the Soviet era," sums up the state of Moldovan health care. But the playwright is primarily concerned with self-reflection and positioning. At the end of her report is the thought: "I got along best with my mother when she couldn’t remember anything."
Then Elena Sirbu stands in front of the three tables with bowls, pots and a sauerkraut masher, tells of her marriage to a Moldovan and the subsequent exclusion in her "community." For she is Roma. Historically, the area of today’s Republic of Moldova, which was called Bessarabia until 1940, is a traditional settlement area of the Sinti and Roma.
Archaic structures of Roma society
Sirbu is a journalist. In her native language Romanes, she describes the archaic structures of Roma society that are still valid today, in which women are not supposed to go to work, their personal emancipation and the exclusion that nevertheless exists by Moldovan mainstream society.
Nicoleta Esinencu: "Abolirea familiei/The Abolition of the Family", again on 18 + 19 Oct, in Berlin at HAU 3. On 25 Oct in Dresden/Hellerau/ European Center for the Arts.
Between the narratives, they attempt a theatrical expulsion of the evils that, in Esinencu’s view, contribute to the complete misalignment of post-Soviet society. The kitchen utensils, standing on sound plates, provide the acoustic background – stirring in bowls, banging on pot lids, rattling dried fruit – then they are forever abolished, cursed, spirited away: monogamy, patriarchy, the state, private property and capitalism.
This has the character of agitprop and, with the energy of the incantation, paints the wishful image of a society in which there are no hierarchies and everyone is accepted. Gradually, one understands what these institutions contributed to the pressure on the narrators, how they narrowed their space for development.
Artjom Zavadovsky reports in his native Russian about the reality of life of a person who does not want to commit himself to one gender. Esinencu provides him with a strongly reflective text. With just a few "strokes" he draws the attributions and expectations of Moldovan society for someone born with a member. In order to then set his very personal self-image against it.
HAU has produced this performance, which is affectionately devoted to all the characters, because Nicoleta Esinencu’s Teatru Spălătorie (Laundry), which she founded in 2010 in the Moldovan capital Chisinău, receives no state support there.