Novi Život (HR) Taste Experiment

performans, 2007

Something about supper, something about something...

Restaurants in the dark are extremely popular abroad, and putting on a ‘dinner in the dark’ might perhaps inspire hospitality providers to enrich Zagreb too with such irreverent fare.

Well then:

They say that in the dark you celebrate the pleasures of the palate in an entirely different way and that the enjoyment of food is more intense, more exotic. Although I cannot make any judgment of my own on the matter, I believe that the fluctuation of attention that the eyes produce will be avoided in such a case, the fullness of flavor given its independence, and a sense paid too little attention foregrounded.

This supper is imagined with no candlelight, with soft music, and quiet conversation, for hearing is the only means of communication – if we rule out the intimacy of touch – which is a matter of choice – of course.

"Eat in the dark to see what you are eating!"

Vojin Perić


Novi Život (HR)

On the first day of spring in 1948, something crazy took place, accompanied by a frenzy of applause from the audience in Samobor. The craziness was not all that crazy, and nor was the public so terribly impressed by the theatrical pleasure, but it did happen for the first time, enough for the big bang. Enthusiasm won out over diffidence, and the creaking of the boards that Novi Život meant became everyday music to the ears of the blind actors. The tradition of the blind on the whole begging, playing music in front of churches or basket making could be resigned to some other much more profound darkness.

But right from the beginning, things had got off on a professional footing, for well-established directors were engaged for the preparations of the Novi Život performances - Tom Durbešic, Miro Maroti, Vjekoslav Vidošević, Vladimir Jagarić, Radojko Ježic, Mirko Merle and Dražen Grünwald . Year after year, the projects outdid the ones before, and guest appearances were organised the length and breadth of the former state. In 1978 Novi Život went on a major tour of Switzerland, Germany and Austria, which was to become practically a yearly event in the life of the ensemble.

At the beginning of the nineties a young new director came to the theatre of the blind, Nina Kleflin, and her approach to blind actors produced revolutionary advances in their performances. The static and almost entirely verbal theatre took wings, the movements and facial expressions of the actors gained in plasticity and conviction, and the repertoire was carefully chosen and adapted to the sensibility of the troupe.

A major step forward and outstanding success was made with Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin, and a few years later Harms’ Zeros and Nils delighted the Zagreb audience. In 1999 Nina Kleflin directed another Novi Život hit, Radovan Ivšić’s King Gordogan, which leading theatre critics Mira Muhaberec and Ivan Jindar reckoned to be one of the best productions of the year in the whole of the Croatian acting scene. In the third millennium the repertoire has remained at an elite level, consisting of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Mitterer’s Deadly Sins. To the group of directors mentioned at the beginning of this historical review have been added Snježana Banović, Zoran Mužić and Mario Kovač.

For the history to be able to support everything I wish to state later, here are a few essential details. Up to the beginning of the eighties, the Zagreb troupe of blind actors was the only one in Europe, without a parallel in point of artists and achievements. But in their guest appearances in various European countries and at the invitation of the Croatian expatriates and of national organisations for the blind, our actors and their work inspired blind persons in Spain, England and Italy, and at the beginning of the nineties theatre groups in these countries started working. When the number of registered theatres for the blind got into double figures, the members of Novi Život hit on the idea of organising a festival of theatres of the blind and visually impaired. This was held for the first time in October 1999, and it was attended by all the theatres then known in Europe. The festival has the symbolic name of BIT, which expands to the literal name Blind in Theatre, while as for the more profound intention of the word, the readers may judge for themselves. At the second encounter of blind and visually impaired theatre people (in October 2001), theatres from the USA were also invited, allowing the organisers with good justice to call the third BIT a world festival, which it truly was (October 4 – 9, 2003) (BIT 4 was from October 7- 14, 2005) and the fifth in October 2007. To end, I would like to point out that BIT is the only festival of its kind in the world.

At a time when the legal framework of the theatre world in Croatia still harks back to the socialist conception of reality, and the discipline is raising its voice seeking for a law worthy of artists, at a time when new paragraphs are being inserted, and the theatre context is looking forward to its own kind of cogency, from Šenoina 32 in Zagreb, from the Novi Život Theatre of the Blind and Visually Impaired come hyperbolic forms of requests or rather pleas that in some future theatre law the term of a specific theatre should be included, for this is the only way in which blind and visually impaired artists are going to get a status worthy of their history and the level of their art, in which the alms that trickle down to them can be turned into a decent system of financing, and by which Croatia puts the name of the world’s oldest theatre of the blind into a suitable frame.

Vojin Perić