Opening play: Juliet and Romeo – The Poisoning of Marriage
By Heidi Trautmann…….
A friend quite brutally asked me the other day: ‘How can you go to the theatre while people die in a war not too far away from us on the European Continent?’ I looked at her and said: ‘Yes, especially in times of misery, aggression and fear, we desperately need the theatre, the arts, we find the proof in those times of WW2, theatre is the mirror of society, a place where we find ourselves.’
Having said this – my basic true belief – I really don’t know how to start my review… and how to express my deep joy of the birth of a new theatre in Lefkoşa and the birth of a new theatre group “Çekirdek Kadro/The Skeleton Crew” with their first project. I think I need to let the initiators speak for themselves, so we can feel the pride and excitement, or as Osman Ateş puts it: The closing of a circle – the last piece of a puzzle.
The former Mısırlızade Cinema in the Arabahmet Quarter, having been left empty for decades, has been beautifully restored and it was with some excitement that I entered the building which in the future will become a great centre of performing arts, the ‘Lefkoşadasahne’, again the initiative of a private person, an artist and musician, the founder Suleyman Akosman and here his welcoming words:
“‘Lefkoşadasahne’ is a dream that has been going on for many years… a new centre for modern high-quality performing art. Lefkoşadasahne is the first private performing arts institution in the sector. It is a platform for professional art. It was established with the support of RADEV (Rauf Denktaş Education and Research Foundation). It is a non-profit organisation.
We have started with a play by ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’ Theatre Company, which in the future will represent the ‘theatre leg’ of the project. It will produce works with its own writers and composers.
With its corporate identity, Lefkoşadasahne aims to make an average of 30 musical concerts and 50 theatre performances a year.”
The birthday project is Ephraim Kishon’s humorous musical comedy ‘Juliet ve Romeo – Bir Evlilik Zehirlenmesi’ (Juliet and Romeo – The Poisoning of Marriage). I did some research and include here a comment on the playwright’s idea, interesting to read.
The introductory words by Osman Ateş, the director of the play:
“A professional repertory theatre, true to its name.
It’s like the closing of a circle, like placing the last piece of a puzzle… Ours is a long-term union that has evolved from a four-year teacher-student relationship to a colleague, friendship and companionship. Thinking about it, nine years have passed since 2013. I remember the days when they took the aptitude test, like it was yesterday. Kurtuluş Altaylı, Aysel Açelya Bübülmez – Alina Moraru, Fuat Zorali, Ekin Karaböcek. I wrote their names in the order they entered the school, one year apart, and they graduated with distinction, one year apart, in that order. What can I say, I have been very lucky and it is a very emotional moment for me. Recently, we have established the ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’ and now I share the same stage with our first production of this theatre company, with my students, whom I witnessed developing and growing a bit more every day in the ‘Basic Acting’ and ‘Project’ classes. An indescribable feeling. May Allah grant every teacher such students, and every actor such companions.
By the way, and at the very beginning of the road, let me address my former students: “The ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’ is entrusted to you; Let it be your aim to keep it alive as moral, competent, young soldiers of our profession, to make our family grow with more such good-hearted, qualified colleagues as you are, who are dedicated to the acting profession, and to move it forward. May your path be clear.
My words to Nehir Demirel, Birce Birsel Çağlar and Güneş Kozal. the founding director, actors and teachers. my friends. We have always walked side by side on this long journey. We have come a long way together, both in academia and in practice. Perhaps the professional sympathy we have for each other and the love and belief we have for our profession is the result of our coming from Bilkent MSSF School. I seem to hear our teacher Cüneyt Gökçer watching us from somewhere and saying ‘well done guys’. May we have many more years of artistic cooperation together.
The biggest share in the physical realization of the ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’ is Süleyman Akosman’s realisation of his dream. At a time when universities wanted to close their Turkish-language Acting Departments one by one due to economic concerns, and our local, talented and young actors who graduated from these departments could not find the opportunity to work in any corporate theatre, Süleyman Akosman, the founder of the “Lefkoşadasahne”, opened the doors of his ‘house’ by providing us with all kinds of opportunities. He made his home our home. He became our companion as a breathing artist in order to make quality art possible in the North of the island. On behalf of myself and my team, I would like to thank you. We still have a lot of work to do. May our camaraderie continue, long live Lefkoşadasahne, and the ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’.
A remark to our audience: Art institutions can survive, breathe, multiply and continue to stage quality productions only if the society is sensitive to art. At this point, in terms of quality, there are some responsibilities that art institutions are obliged to accept towards their audience. With this in mind, while adopting the principle of performing the art of theatre at the highest level in every sense and bringing a new breath and understanding to the theatre movement in Northern Cyprus, it also aims to provide quality artistic experiences for its audience, namely you, the theatre lovers. Good luck to all of us.
Happy birthday lefkoşadasahne, happy birthday ‘Çekirdek Kadro/Skeleton Crew’”
Osman Ates, the director of the play, explains to me, hereafter, the basic idea of the play which I find absolutely fascinating and the story hilariously funny and which presents an accurate picture of modern practices in terms of marriage. I sincerely enjoyed the presentation, the acting, and also the personal touch the play received. The very talented young actors have received a thorough education by their teacher Osman Ateş, whom I have known for many years and whom I appreciate for his deep love of the theatre, also giving each play a very distinctive colour, it is theatre in the pure sense of the word with an enormous sensitivity for stage choreography and body language:
“Emphraim Kishon, an Israeli playwright, comes up with the idea that, if Romeo and Juliet didn’t die, got married, and had a daughter, would their legendary love still exist? In a way, he is criticizing classical stories in almost all of which the story ends with lovers overcoming a lot of difficulties and finally manage to unite. This applies for Cinderella (the prince finds the owner of the shoe and they live happily forever), or like in Swan Princess (Prince kisses her and she wakes up and they live happily forever) But here, Kishon’s point is that those story writers never told us what happened to these famous lovers or to their love when they started living in the same house, after they got married. Same for Shakespeare’s legendary tragic love story where Romeo and Juliet die and their big love stays forever…. The main conflict comes with Shakespeare. He is very disappointed and upset because of their current togetherness and pushes them to turn back in time and remember their love for each other. He is not angry for their existence, but how they live and behave… However, our couple refuses, as they claim that time passed and what Shakespeare is insisting on for the concept of love is now out of date or it doesn’t apply for today’s practice. Plus, they blame him for being sexist that he wouldn’t respect his women characters like Ophelia, Desdemona. Moreover, their story’s name is Romeo and Juliet, and not Juliet and Romeo. In the end, Shakespeare makes a plan to have them poison each other; the Juliets receiving poison from Friar Lorenzo and the Romeos from Shakespeare himself… However, with a twist of the plot, we understand that our couple made a hidden agreement to make Shakespeare believe that they really poison each other, and die in the end. But they don’t do it. All they want is to get rid of him. And they go back to their routine, fighting all the time.
Romeo and Juliet are represented by three actors each in order to broaden the impact and try to impose the idea that more or less all married couples have such a journey ahead of them when they get married with the conceptual question of ‘Does marriage kill love?’ … A cliché, actually. Also, I wanted to keep the nannies and friars in a single body with 3 heads as they represent almost the same ideas in all Shakespearean plays. Lucretia, Romeo-Juliet’s daughter: this is the only character who wasn’t introduced by Shakespeare, but by Kishon. And of course, they belong to the modern era. Their use of language is very corrupted and with a heavy accent and limited vocabulary and not to forget, there is a generation gap with their parents. They find their parents’ story quite fake and a big lie. I presented them like current ‘influencer girls’ on tik-tok, youtube, facebook videos… Anyway, it was a very emotional experience for me, directing a play and appearing on the same stage with my ex-students who now have become my colleagues.”
I congratulate both the initiators for the realization of a dream and the start into a new cultural future and the possibility for many good artists to perform there. I will follow their activities.
The current play will be on Saturdays at 20.00 hrs and on Sundays at 16:00 hrs. At the end of the text, I have noted all contact information. Tickets can be bought online under the link: https://lefkosadasahne.com/
- Actors: Juliets, Lukretia, Nurse: Birce Birsel Cağlar, Aysel Açelya Bükülmez, Alina Moraru
- Actors: Romeos, Friar Lorenzo: Kurtuluş Altayli, Firat Zorali, Ekin Karaböcek
- William Shakespeare: Osman Ates
- Playwright: Ephraim Kishon
- Translation: Hale Kuntay
- Director: Osman Ateş
- Directing Assistant: Nehir Demirel
- Project Coordinator: Güneş Kozal
- Scenery and costume design: Özlem Deniz Yetkili and Asya Kazafanalı
- Music: Suleyman Akosman (Todds)
- Choreography: Liliya Biroğul; Piano Hasan Ravancioğlu
- Stage works: Mert Altaylı
- Photos/Poster: Nuray Akosman
- Phone 0090 548 851 1350
Nuri Efendi Sokak
(Ancient Mısırlızade Cinema)