A staging that went unseen by critics and commentators of the cultural phenomenon in 2009 was They have their whole life ahead of them, directed by Alina Rece. Hosted by the capital’s Nottara Theater, the play is part of the Buletin de Bucuresti project (Bucharest ID), which provides an opportunity for directors that have graduated in the last ten years to work on a professional stage in Bucharest.
The young director wrote the dramatized version of the very soulful novel Your Whole Life Ahead of You, by Romain Gary who, publishing his work under a different name, went on to win his second Goncourt Prize. Unfortunately, both the dramatization and the staging hardly manage to preserve or to recreate the atmosphere in which the characters struggle to survive. The author of the dramatization, who is also the director of the play, chose to focus on the novel’s very powerful psychological dimension and moral implications to the detriment of an image that – warmly and compassionately, yet ironically – shows the confined world of several outcasts (hookers, pimps, children abandoned at Madam Roza’s) deprived of any life perspectives. Romain Gary did not write a moralizing and stimulating novel which would optimistically plead for the superficial, even childish idea that ‘love saves’. It is the director who developed the play in such a way so as to serve a clear moral message, in the name of which she sacrifices nuances and thus the message’s depth and implications.
The subject tells the love story between Madam Roza, a woman who has sold her wiles for decades and is now taking care of her former coworkers’ abandoned children, and Momo (short for Mahomed), a ten-year old boy, raised by the madam. As a spectator I felt that the director simplified the content through minimal cuts of some significant parts, while overemphasizing some other, through the lack of atmosphere, in her attempt to illustrate a moral message. This is also confirmed by Alina Rece’s explanation in the program book: “The play reveals for all of us, workers and spectators, the feeling of true love, the first profound and unconditional love in the characters’ lives. Momo and Roza’s strong love that goes beyond death arises, like a wild flower, in tormenting life situations.” Very beautifully put, however a little too idealistically and simplistically staged in my opinion. Moreover the parts that focus on Hamil, a character robbed of all mystery, supposedly the voice of wisdom, are a real failure (the dialogue between him and comical Momo do not manage to save a certain sense of falsehood and idealism). Actually, the scenes with Hamil are not at all credible. A wise servant of Allah, the embodiment of all virtues, Hamil is all sighing and sobbing while pathetically talking about love to a cheerful, funny little boy…The play would have benefited a lot had these scenes been skipped.
The reason why you should really go see the play is Laura Vasiliu who is entirely worthy of your time. She’s become widely known with the success of 4Months, 3 weeks, 2 Days. I was curious to see her on stage, especially since I had not seen her on stage before. Out of poor judgment and probably prejudgment I was afraid that her performance on stage would never measure up to the one in the Palme d’Or winning film. My curiosity was fully repaid though. She is utterly convincing while creating an irresistible Momo in which frailty and vulnerability face the strength and maturity built through pain. What she does is to build a character, as opposed to recreate or deliver one. The little boy abandoned at Madam Roza’s has substance, he is charming, he is humorous. The young actress performs with great confidence, without any jarring notes that would break the coherence between characters, without being fake or repeating herself. Whether the play stirs any emotions it is only thanks to Laura Vasiliu’s level of performance playing a young boy. She communicates well both with Madam Roza (Ruxandra Sireteanu) and with Moise (Corina Dragomir, extremely promising playing a very joking and energetic character).
Had an actress like Laura Vasiliu done such a part on an important stage such as London, let’s say, her performance would have been praised in all the newspapers, even if London critics are not all that generous. Where have our critics been??
Translated by Adelina Margarit, MTTLC, 1st year