set and costume design
lighting design and music illustration
Hunger, shivering, clinging to illusions, feeling neglected, rootlessness, a false past, mourning - The Pelican offers the viewer a strenuous emotional exercise. The Hungarian Theater of Cluj staged one of the most famous works of Strindberg, under Felix Alexa's direction. The 70 minutes of the play depicts the collapse of a family. It is a tension-filled performance with well-constructed scenes, effective imagery and well-developed characters.
The visual impact of the play was the forte of the performance (set and costume design by Carmencita Brojboiu). The theatrical scenery was built on the use of cool colors, poignant light and shadow effects, reflections and translucent surfaces. The stark living room of a family that lacks real connections appears before us; throughout the story, the mother's (Imola Kézdi) lack of emotions toward her family is depicted, matched perfectly with the cool blue hues of the set. All objects within the room were covered in glass, except for the rocking chair in which the father has died. This rocking chair was the only place where warm tones and organic forms appeared - a reference to the positive father figure, his natural, real personality, which has become obvious and decisive from the dialogues of the play. (…) The rocking chair is important for several reasons. It is placed in the middle of the space, continuously maintaining the memory of the father, his presence; it is the only object left uncovered - while the rest of the objects sealed in glass evoke the feel and quality of display-windows and exhibitions. A display-window life, display-window love and a display-window mother: the intention and meaning is clear, the set is fitting. People sit alternately in the rocking chair. One after the other, everyone gets to sit in the former place of the father: each individual arrives to understand his situation, can evaluate the events. The physical position is intertwined with their standpoints with regard to the mother.
The amount of realism in The Pelican has been substantially diminished. Instead, the poetic degree of the text increased. However, it's not at all a romantic type of poetic feel. But a dark, harsh, aggressive, biting poetic stance, permanently and unmistakably marked by the "flowers of evil". Its naturalism is also more powerful. Both within the text, and within the performance. Reaching its peak in the dreadful scene where Gerda takes revenge on the one who starved her, sentencing her to be underdeveloped, forcing her to swallow the disgusting gruel running down her mother's luxury clothes. A scene carefully weighed, not too extensive, nor drawn out, its careful "design" marking the audience both physically and physiologically. (…) Felix Alexa has not missed the chance to work with two great actors. With Imola Kézdi, who plays impeccably the theatrics and false pathos of the character, who interprets flawlessly the scene of the false similarity to the story of the pelican, whose acting is exemplary in the scene where she is forced to swallow the porridge. Also, with Zsolt Bogdan, who is refined, using economic means to suggest Axel's chameleon-like feature, his essential immorality. A discreet, insinuating, cool, calculated and thus domineering character. In turn, Melinda Kántor manages to give poignancy to her episodic appearances. Mainly, however, the merits of the collaboration between the actors and the director lie not in the impressive moments of the three seasoned actors, but in the way that Felix Alexa guided the developments of young actors Éva Imre (Gerda) and Péter Arus (Fredrik). Two very young and very good actors. Who have brilliantly passed a difficult exam. No, Felix Alexa has not changed the accents, has not shifted the weight of the characters, he did not infringe upon the balance of Strindberg's writing. He found other means, other much more subtle ways to make the two young actors - who even if they are not at the beginning of their careers, are still facing the first major professional confrontation of their lives - convince us to watch their future artistic evolution very carefully.
National Theatre Festival (FNT), Bucharest (2016)
Date of the opening: february 27, 2016
The Pelican, one of the most well-known dramas of the outstanding Swedish playwright August Strindberg, is directed by Alexa Felix from a new and sensitive perspective. It is a staggering performance that offers the actors exciting challenges.
“The performance is the image of the world we live in: cynical, full of latent aggression that sometimes breaks out from the depths. It is a play about spiritual devastation and self-destruction. Strindberg is relevant to the core, especially because he expounds a family apocalypse through borderline cases presented with black humour. When hope dies and illusions are useless, the world of emotions and extreme feelings starts.
I have explored this strange world of The Pelican together with a team of excellent actors.”