22 March 2008
Andrej Hieng’s The Conqueror takes place in Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquista. Don Felipe (based on the historical character of Hernán Cortés) conquers the country with only a small army and religious fervour. Eight years later, the situation starts to get complicated. Don Felipe and his soldiers celebrate their victory and wait for a messenger from Spain to arrive bearing Don Felipe’s appointment to viceroy. The formerly victorious soldiers are now exhausted, poor and taciturn. The country has turned into desert, the fields are barren, and the enslaved Indians are dying in huge numbers or fleeing to the mountains. The state is inefficient; chaos and decay are everywhere. Don Felipe, until now a loyal servant to the Spanish crown, has not taken into account the Spanish court’s intrigues—his world collapses upon learning that somebody else has been appointed viceroy. Once again he gathers his forces and begins a new conquest, only to return defeated and broken. Now it’s his son Baltasar’s turn to fight against the new world order (as a child he had taken part in his father’s invasions). Baltasar, however, fights not for high ideals but only for personal revenge. His rebellion is crushed and he is hanged.
The Conqueror is playwright and director Andrej Hieng’s first work for theatre. Its first production in 1970 »echoed« throughout the former Yugoslavia, and the play was awarded best Yugoslav play of the year. Despite its historical setting, the play speaks primarily about contemporary issues, particularly about the relationship between the individual and the state or authority. In interviews about the play, Hieng repeated that he had merely expressed some of his own intellectual distresses in dramatic form, just as other authors expressed them in essays or diaries. He found Spain and the historical development and collapse of its colonial empire to be an appropriate metaphor for the collapse of colonial empires in the 20th century.
Week of Slovenian Drama in Kranj
Maribor Theatre Festival