Photos – Russell Millard

Wearily folding clothes by the fading light of the day, an ageing couple take turns at resting on the only bed in their tiny dwelling.  Everything is ordinary. Then, while the woman is asleep, a chest of drawers splits in two to become a bier for the body of a young woman. She has just died, and the rest of the play explores the grief of her family. In another coup de théâtre the bed becomes a bath, in which the family members bathe the body of the young woman. Then, for a few minutes of enormous power she stands alone on the stage, facing the audience, completely naked, in spell-binding stillness.

The playwright, Mario Banushi, is Albanian, but works in Athens, and I was struck by the fact that the play abides by Aristotle’s dictum that a play should take place within a 24-hour time-span. Indeed, Goodbye, Lindita is the second play in a trilogy about birth and death. This wordless play has the pace of a symphonic adagio, starting in what might be late afternoon, traversing the night with its nightmares, and ending the next morning. The period of stillness where the naked body of the woman faces the audience was exactly like the prolonged, unchanging, unresolved dissonance in the middle of the slow movement of Bruckner’s 9th symphony, and indeed the play unfolds with Brucknerian solemnity, the slow, careful, almost Noh-like movements of the actors seldom disturbed by anything abrupt.

Emmanouel Rovithis' score for Goodbye, Lindita is not at all Brucknerian, however. Understated yet complex, it weaves a tracery of unease through the piece, eschewing melody, allowing the entire emotional content of the play to be provided by the deliberate, intense movements of the actors.

The play continues with the family dressing the body in finery appropriate for a wedding, in accordance with some Balkan funeral traditions. Banushi is still in his twenties, and has perhaps the over-enthusiasm of youth in his pursuit of theatrical effects. Besides those I have mentioned, which work really well, there is a moment when an icon of a black virgin and child is taken down to reveal a hole into which sticks for making a fire are inserted, before one of the family members climbs into the hole. And the stunning effect of the dead woman’s nakedness is somewhat vitiated by the fact that almost the entire cast take off their clothes towards the end of the play. But nonetheless, it is clear that Banushi has much to say, and a great deal of theatrical technique to help him say it.

This play left me with a series of images that emerge from within the almost trance-like motion of the action. Very like Bruckner, in fact.

Event details

Adelaide Festival 2024
Goodbye, Lindita
Mario Banushi

Director Mario Banushi

Venue: Dunstan Playhouse | Adelaide Festival Centre, Kaurna Country, Adelaide SA
Dates: 29 Feb – 3 Mar 2024
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au

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