Based on a trilogy by Ivan Mrak The Old Roman, Sons of the Old Roman, The Annihilation of the Romans
18 March 2023
Plays by Ivan Mrak, author, actor and director are considered overlooked, rarely performed and unjustly marginalised, even though Mrak himself consciously persisted in his enforced “marginality” throughout his life. For example, his play Maria Stuart was last staged at the SNT Drama Ljubljana in 1966. His autobiographical trilogy The Old Roman, Sons of the Old Roman, The Annihilation of the Romans – a family saga dealing with the fate of Ivan Mrak’s father’s inn “At the Old Roman” (later known as “The Inn at Mrak’s”), also known as “The Romans” – was not fully staged by Mrak’s theatre during his lifetime. The Old Roman premiered in 1939, The Sons of the Old Roman in 1941 (the tragedy was published in 1984 by the Obzorja publishing house), but shortly afterwards (in 1942) Mrak was banned from theatre activity for not joining the fascist trade union. The final part of the trilogy, The Annihilation of the Romans which Mrak completed in 1945 (it was not published until 1974 by Obzorja), has never been staged at all. One of the emphases of our adaptation, research and staging of the trilogy is to enquire the possibility of reconciliation and the impossibility of overcoming the dialectics of the executioner and the victim (as Taras Kermauner put it), that is to say, self-aggrandisement and the simultaneous demonisation of others; as well as the marginalisation of exceptional artists, whom Slovenian society persistently rejects, especially when they publicly display ambitions of achieving the greatest works of science and art, or when they poke at the neuralgic points of national psychopathology.
Tibor Hrs Pandur
Ivan Mrak did not give his trilogy an overarching title. Nonetheless we could say that it deals with the disintegration of a family. This annihilation is conditioned by the context of the time in which he sometimes embeds his autobiographical story. In the span of time (ranging from the end of the First World War to the end of the Second World War), Mrak composes a family saga. He ironically portrays the disintegration of moral and ethical values in the name of bare survival. In such an environment there is neither safety nor refuge to be found, not even in the smallest family unit. Everyone is an enemy; paranoia and deafness are rampant, the impossibility of dialogue and the constant escalation of conflict are the main fabric of these three plays. People need each other just to argue. There is no agreement, empathy or coexistence. There is only the overwhelming need for each person to assert their own will, and to make others to do what is right. Mrak mocks mercilessly and fearlessly human weakness and glorifies its gloom. He does this with a lot of humour and distance. One could say that while holding up a mirror to Slovenian society, he slaps pettiness in the face, and places the marginal on a pedestal.
Nina Rajić Kranjac