Valentin Nicolau doesn’t read his plays again

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After the National Theatre in Bucharest housed the premiere of “The Legend of the Last Emperor”, I talked to playwright Valentin Nicolau and asked him some questions. Here are his answers.

You are fascinated by power and the faces of it. If I may say this, you are just like the photographer in “The Last Emperor”. You see the world by your camera take takes pictures of instances.  Have you even been prevented from “showing” the images you grasped?

There are obstacles everywhere. Something unpleasant is to prevent ourselves and to blame it on others, without wishing it and without putting up with it. The question is what we understand of everything we see while alive. What kind of witnesses we are and how can we heal from fascination? Fascination can lead to vision, just as it can blind.

“The Last Emperor” looks like a sequel to the biography of the protagonist in Ionesco’s “The King Dies”.  Is this resemblance to Ionesco’s universe accidental or deliberate? Do you take yourself for a descendent of him, for a writer who continues the absurd theatre tradition?

I have never fancies such inspiration lines for myself, no matter how great the masters I admire. If we can make such associations, their cause is natural. It is like a geology of generations. It is hard for me to do more than feel in a certain succession and continuity and I think theory is not my job.

Were you to take distance from your plays and proceed to a critical reading, what would you notice first?

I don’t read my plays again. It would be like returning to an old flame that was wonderful or tormenting once. But I wouldn’t want to see the woman’s face again. Maybe I wouldn’t even recognize her today. I’d rather fall in love again with another woman and go through a new story. And there is one more thing. As I am not a laborer on texts, when I finish a play I feel relieved.

The talk about a crisis of contemporary playwriting started a long time ago. There is much talk about what should be done to revive the genre. What is your opinion on this? What treatment should be used to cure the “patient”?

For a play, a chance to life means a chance to turn into a performance. It is easy. And I am convinced the audience is waiting for Romanian stories and characters. Those stage directors and theatre managers who will bet on Romanian playwrights will be surprised to see theatres crowded again. After all, it is a matter of sensibility and courage.

Gabriela Simon (Cotidianul, October 21, 2002)


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