This Game is Over
5 April 2024
This Game Will Be Over is a grotesque play about the modern time and its dilemmas, written in Zupančič’s signature style. It absorbs readers into the events with the very first line by one of its contemporary characters: »That’s not true!« And indeed, as we read the meticulously structured play, the hero’s retort – in many versions, ranging from »this can’t be true« to »Yep, precisely, just as it seems, but it shouldn’t be true« – keeps popping up in our minds. Once again, Zupančič’s heroes are characters whose traits we can easily recognise in some of our fellow humans. Having said that, they’re already somewhere beyond in an almost post-catastrophic time that is constantly being heralded during the play, evoking in the readers references to the grotesquely irreal and, at the same time, very real events from the recent pandemic years and the new millennium which has been off the rails ever since it started.
The play is set in an inn that looks like something out of a Gregor Strniša play – admittedly, Zupančič does not set his on the marshland on the outskirts of town, but nevertheless makes it rather metaphysical, with a female bartender, the sinister silence outside, and several customers. First, there are the regular punters, then the occasional but fatal ones, including Psychiatrist and Death in the end. Although all have concrete and indeed somehow unusual, grotesquely funny and also slightly scary names, Marija Menza, Krištof Dolenc, Anos Drei, and Strulz Chebutykin, which all allude to various drama, literary or film references, these characters are rather absurd or absurdist in the sense of the good old Daniil Harms. The initially ordinary and almost dreary events quickly escalate and turn dramatic and uncertain, just like the future of all the protagonists, under threat of the cataclysm, the end of the world in the Garden of Eden of the rather non-Eden-like inn in the most non-Eden-like town (or so it seems). When all the threads are fully intertwined, we realise together with one of the protagonists that we are beyond hope. Just like in the old frescos from the church in Hrastovlje, a dance macabre starts at the dawn of the day, announcing the end of the play and, simultaneously, the beginning of reflection for the readers and spectators who must invent the ending by themselves. Once again, Zupančič proves he is a master of detail and scene composition. He introduces his own version of defamiliarization (Shklovsky) or distancing effect (Brecht), pointing out that what we see or read is no longer only a realistic dialogue with the structure of absolute drama but an enduring process of deconstruction of meaning and signification.
The jury’s statement by Vesna Jevnikar (Chair), Tomaž Toporišič and Jakob Ribič on the nomination for the Slavko Grum Award 2023