Mistras

The play Mistras by Marius Ivaškevičius, like his earlier Madagascar, suggests we cast an untraditional eye at some famous historical personalities. He also invites us to leave aside stereotype notions when considering the identity of the Lithuanian nation. The action in Mistras centres on the life and the destiny of Adamas (Adam Mickiewicz). At the same time, it is the quest for a ‘real’ hero that we are subconsciously looking for in life today. The audience is presented with a picture of Lithuania as an ‘exotic’ country, a country where ‘everything is amorphous and not crystallised: Russia, inside it, Poland, inside Poland, Lithuania, and inside the latter, Indians ready to explode.’ It is a country where people raise a glass to wish each other ‘to revive in literature’, and of which you can say ‘all strange lands are equally strange.’ 

 Rimas Tuminas’ production gives us the impression of a grand miracle play, sounding at the same time as a requiem for the magnificent era of Romanticism, when the human spirit was endowed with magic powers, which, following the general belief, could have an effect on the world. At first sight, the Romantic approach to life is very far from life today (old-fashioned solemnity, intense feelings, grandiose ideas), but Tuminas counts himself as an unfulfilled Romantic, and manages to find convincing parallels with today’s reality. 

Mistras is a Lithuanian landlord, Andrzej Towianski, who proclaimed himself the Lord God’s Marshal, God’s Vicar on Earth, and founded a sect in Paris called ‘God’s Cause’. His mystical ideas completely enslave the poet Adam Mickiewicz, who at the time is searching for sources of inspiration for his creative work. This unusual duo, combining numerous cultural associations, lead us to reflect on the relations between the teacher and the apprentice, the seducer and the one who desires, between the creator and his creative work. In Tuminas’ production, Mickiewicz rears up like a Faustian personality, challenging God himself; whereas Mistras embodies the eternal and many-faced evil genius. At the same time, Mistras is a feast for the senses. It is full of spellbinding sights, as well as of genre transformations absorbing the spectator in the dense theatrical atmosphere.

 

 

Synopsis 
 
During the pompous ceremony of the reburial of Napoleon Bonaparte, Mickiewicz, an elderly teacher of literature, makes acquaintance with the Lithuanian landlord Andrzej Towianski (Andrius Taujėniškis), one of the greatest ideologists and propagators of Polish Messianism. In Paris, Towianski founded a sect God’s Cause Circle which was active as long as the 1st World War. With his charisma and the impact he has on people, the “savage” Towiansky manages to cure the seriously ill wife of Mickiewicz. Towianski who claims to be a Messiah dazzles Mickiewicz with his mystic ideas and gradually gains rule over the poet. At the party of Parisian intellectuals exhausted by cultural “ennui” and attended by George Sand, her beloved Frederic Chopin as well as by her “spiritual leader” Pierre Leroux, Honore de Balzac and American journalist Margaret Fuller Mickiewicz feels lonesome. Only the incurably ill Chopin who is also far away from his country can understand his mood. Meanwhile, Mistras returns from the place of Waterloo battle and acquires the shape of Napoleon. He brings along the governess Xavera, the member of his sect, who is the embodiment of Devil. At the Lithuanian restaurant in Paris, the philosopher Leroux – “the prophet of socialism” – unsuccessfully tries to discredit the mystic ideas of Towianski. Mistras feels triumphant, and Mickiewicz cannot resist the Xavera’s magic and betrays Celina.
 
Rimas Tuminas:  I’m always looking for the material that could give life to the theatre. It’s not just themes and ideas, I mean – the broader sense of it. I have in mind the stuff that sets free, the one that gives birth to a new theatre language. There’s one thing I know – no need to try to delicately touch these historical personalities and, so to speak, brush off the dust of history. Hardly can we call ourselves either archeologists or museum experts. We should not fear to be rude and shake off the ashes of oblivion. The performance is about the way home, a long journey to one’s homeland. It’s an eternal theme – longing for home, freedom and beauty. The closer the end of this journey, the more infinite is the longing. And the more definite is the comprehension that many things might have changed, the dearer it becomes – the native soil, its odour, its sound.
 
Reviews
 
The play reveals a rather ‘exotic’ picture of Lithuania, a country where ‘everything is still very confusing and uncrystallized: Russia with Poland in it, Poland with Lithuania in it, and Lithuania with Indians ready to blow up the country, where people wish each other ‘to resurrect in literature’ while raising their glasses, and consider ‘all lands to be equally strange’.
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