Some of us saw her on the Bucharest stages, before or after 1989, and others only in the movies running on T.V. or cinema. No man belonging to the theatre or movie industry, no stage and film lover remains indifferent when hearing her name. Posterity has cherished the styled, colored, opened and so brave image the actress created during her life so that perfection wouldn’t seem to her only a theoretic ideal. What is her name? Gina Patrichi.
Since mars 1994, the Romanian theatre has been going on without her, the dream creature, who was leaving it after 58 years spent in this world, with all its good and bad sides.
In one of her last interviews, made by Lucia Hossu-Longin, the actress had quoted one of the last lines of Corina, the heroine from Mihail Sebastian’s play, ‘Jocul de-a vacanța’, a role she had played at the beginning of her career: ‘Maybe I was nothing but a girl from a book, a book you read… Maybe everything was just a fantasy, a joke, a game indeed.’
To convince and to fascinate
After 1990, when Bulandra Theatre could tour abroad, the ‘Hamlet’ play, directed by Alexandru Tocilescu, with Ion Caramitru as the protagonist, remained without Gertrude. Gina Patrichi replaced Ileana Predescu and performed at the Royal National Theatre in London, and then in Dublin and Paris. She gave life to a truly Shakespearian Gertrude: tormented, sophisticated and dramatic. It happened a few years after she played another queen, the one of Great Will, Cleopatra, under Mihai Manuțiu’s direction, at Cluj National Theatre.
Critics and Mihai Patrichi, the actresses’ brother, the author of the volume ‘Gina Patrichi: moments of life’, say that Gertrude was her memorable swan song.
All the queens performed by the actress on the Romanian stages were the result of a belief: ‘I try to find my moment of truth. I often contradict it and then, naturally, I can’t achieve any certainties. I possess the pride of my work: that is to transform an unlikely truth into a possible one. I live some moments to paroxysm, to estates that balanced creatures see only in their dreams. In order to obtain such feelings, the rest of the truth must be dried up of signification; a great economy of means must be made so that the explosion moment can both demonstrative and fascinating at the same time.
Running from conventions, mistrusting the technique possibilities that lack intuition, Gina Patrichi played a great variety of compositional roles, discovering and exploiting spiritual resources. She was actually running from the risk of becoming an ordinary performer: ‘The actor accustomed to receive orders that he carries on eating out of his director’s hand (…) who takes over intonations and not intentions, places himself under the level of an ordinary worker, because he accepts, from laziness or convenience, to become the object from the subject.
Her theory resulted from practice, after many years and countless characters she has searched, understood and brought to life.
For instance, this also occurred in 1984 when the choreographer Miriam Raducanu directed, at Bulandra Theatre, a collage of texts and choreographic moments which needed a flexible performer who could improvise and run from convention. This performer was Gina Patrichi.
How could she perform so many voices in only one show, ‘O lume pe scenă’?
Due to her openness and her desire to explore and discover: ‘ In our work, if you are not able to start over and over again, you’re lost. I try, as possible, to run towards a new youth…in theatre. I hope I find it because, in some cases, as I say, it is never too late. And because nobody is or can be completely mature…ever.’
Theatre and cinema
Searching for perfection she had performed in plays that remained in the history of the Romanian theatre: ‘Iulius Caesar’ directed by Andrei Șerban, ‘Elisabeta I’ by Foster and ‘Victimile Datoriei’, shows signed by Liviu Ciulei, „Priveşte înapoi cu mânie” by J. Osborne, under Andrei Blaier’s direction, „Comedie pe întuneric” by Peter Scheffer, directed by Valeriu Moisescu, „O dimineaţă pierdută”, a Cătălinei Buzoianu show, after the novel with the same title, by Gabriela Adameşteanu. She had been Arkadina from Cehov’s ‘Pecaruşul’ , with Victor Rebengiuc as her partener.
She made her debut in the movie industry in 1965 playing Roza Ianoşi from ‘Padurea Spanzuraților’, the winnig play of Liviu Ciulei. For 20 years she had impersonated various characters on the set of more than 20 movies: ‘Trecătoarele iubiri’, ‘Nemuritorii’, ‘Dincolo de nisipuri’, ‘Probă de microfon’, ‘Moromeţii’ etc.
As for the differences that exist between the theatre actor and the one playing in movies, Gina Patrichi thought, as other servants of Thalia, that the movie is more categorical.
‘You enter the frame only when your character has something to say, while on stage I can stand still for a half of hour, but I am there. It’s an elaboration work which is infinitely ampler. The scene offers my inside energy a comfort of creation that the movie can never provide.’
In the parlor from her house from Bucharest she had often gathered real cinema nights, expressing her admiration for Giulietta Masina and Charlotte Rampling, Jack Nicholson and Robert de Niro.
From the Opera’s roof – on the stage
If we go more backwards in time, to her first steps on stage, we discover the roles she played after her debut on the stage of the Galați Theatre.
In the summer of 1956, Gina Patrichi was a former student. Despite her professor’s, Aura Buzescu, trust and protection she had been expelled from the ‘Ion Luca Caragiale’ Institute of Theatre and Cinema after 3 years. She had been admitted there at the age of 16. But her former collegues and the director Valeriu Moisescu had searched for her on the beach, in order to offer her a role only she could perform, that of the student from the romantic play with which she made her debut.
And then the great roles flowed: Varvara from Ostrovski’s ‘Furtuna’, the landlady from Goldoni’s play, Iulişca from ‘Mireasa desculţă’ by Suto Andras. When she brought Nora, a Ibsen character, to life in such a great manner, she was 23. It marked the beginning of her career as an exceptional performer of Ibsen’s characters.
The public,whose reaction was vital for the actress, let himself hypnotised by many performances: Corina from ‘Jocul de-a vacanta’, Mihail Sebastian’s play, directed by Valeriu Moisescu at Bulandra Theatre, Kitty Duval from „Clipe de viaţă”, by Willian Saroyan, under Liviu Ciulei’s direction, or Miţa Baston from „D-ale carnavalului” by Ion Luca Caragiale, interpreted together with Nae Girimea, played by Octavian Cotescu, in a Lucian Pintilie show.
Endoubted with an autocritic sense, the actress avoided mannerism, always dicovering other ways of interpreting a character.
The generation who discovered late the T.V. fed itself in the 50s with ‘the unseen fluid of the stage’, as Mihai Patrichi calls her in his memoire book. The young Gina had seen working actors like George Vraca, George Calboreanu, Lucia Sturdza Bulandra, Sonia Cluceru, Irina Rachiţeanu, Maria Filotti when she was preparing herself to become a chemist as her parents wanted her to. Those who founded the ‘Union’ Theatre with Gina
on the roof of the Bucharest Opera in their chilhood took part at the birth of a star.
Written by Dana Ionescu
Translated by Raluca Daniela Costea, MTTLC, 1st year