Theatre performances made children companies always touch me. They are my small weakness as they remind me of my school years and my punctiliousness in preparing each sketch or theatre performance I was involved in, but also of the dedication of my students when we made a theatre performance together. In such performances the audience’s reaction is always warm and the interpretation of the small actors, beyond little stuttering (or maybe due to them), is always a great success.
It wasn’t my first encounter with the performances of Vienna Children’s Theatre Association; I had seen before As You Like It by W. Shakespeare and was, at the time, impressed with this ambitious project which aims to familiarize children with the masterpieces of classical theatre (plays by W. Shakespeare, Carlo Goldoni, I.L. Caragiale or, in this case, Molière), often considered the prerogative of the theatres for big people. The company’s artistic projects (performances staged in Oradea, Cluj Napoca and Bucharest) can successfully equal staging in professional theatres.
The performance The Imaginary Invalid after Molière, prepared by the Cluj team of the Vienna Children’s Theatre (premiered on November 19th, 2010, at Puck Theatre, Cluj Napoca) is in this sense, another great success, revealing a team that, although large ( 23 children between 6 and 18 years old) worked exemplary, inspired by a team of genuine professionals in working with small actors: actress Mădălina Dumitrache (who was also the director, starting from an idea of Şerban Borda), Mona Erhan and Cezara Mureşan , with a text adapted after Tudor Bogdan and Ştefan Crudu’s translation by Sabina Topală-Ardelean, the Cluj branch representative and the organizational soul of the association.
If we were to become very serious for a moment – and this staging of The Imaginary Invalid allows for it – I’d say that the performance is build in balanced. The very well done stage design suggests the bourgeois lounge atmosphere, and the costumes, tailored on the black and white contrast, support the outlining of the characters: white suggests at the same time Argan’s unconsciousness, essentially innocent, the purity love for Angelique and Cleant, the lucid observation for tonic Toinette. On the other hand, the subtle touches of black in the doctors’ or notaries’ suits are a sign of the conscious and undertaken malice. The construction of the first act in the mirror – first performed by children in primary and secondary schools, then resumed and continued by high school students – highlights, in fact, the infantile universe of Molière. However, this is not the power of fascination in this performance, but the way in which it manages to develop stage interpretation skills in children-actors. A big smile stayed on his lips, from the first to the last minute of the performance. I was deeply impressed and moved by the punctiliousness of the actors, the dedication with which they have assumed their roles and I think everyone in the audience was touched by the playful energy of these very talented children whom, keeping the order in the programme, I will list here, as I feel their first great success requires mentioning: Aragon (Ioana Jişa/Mihai Barbu), Toinette (Elena Bînzari/Oana Petrean), Angelique (Teodora Ungurean/Isabela Sabău/Mara Danci), Luison (Ana Meteş/Sorana Anca), Beline (Eugenia Holhos/Iulia Ghicu), Mr. Diafoirus (Amalia Oleleu/Alida Barbu), Thomas Diafoirus(Alexandra Morar/Alexis Indolean), Purgon (Oana Feneşan), Fleurant (Maria Danci), Beralde (Diana Moisa/Matei Chindriş), Cleante (Alexandros Bakos/Bogdan Nistor) and Notary (Raluca Todea/Sorana Anca). I wish them all the success and many performances ahead!
We often discuss about the need to introduce in schools consistent art education programs, going beyond the arbitrary status that arts hold at this point in student education. If Music and Fine Arts have difficultly found a place in curricula (one hour per week, with the exception of vocational high schools or Children’s Clubs), education through theatre is the most disadvantaged (with the aforementioned exception), as it solely depends on the willingness of teachers who often on their time and expense commit to such activities of major artistic educational implications. But what happened when such happy encounters never take place? Then there is a risk of future great men of theatre to never find their way to the stage, and future adult spectators their way to theatre halls. In this context, educational theatre activities such as those organized by the Vienna Children’s Theatre, or other similar organizations are at the moment a needed oasis of normality. Worthwhile, therefore, encouraging and supporting.