drama by Gorana Balančević

About Performance

The main character, or should we say the heroine, Vesela Jovanović was labelled as “the child of the past”. By changing jobs (cook, warehouse worker, railroad switchman, toilet cleaner, and eventually an unemployed person, a protester at the railroad), the fifty-year old Vesela, a clerk and a single parent to two children, descends down the inevitable road into desperation by following the administrative decisions of her bosses into existential emptiness, into metaphysical hollow of Nothing. Whether she dedicates her energy and effort to take care of her bosses’ wellbeing, or she storages the redundant work uniforms in the railroad waste warehouse, or she classifies and logs human waste in the underground toilet purgatory, she is a heroine. She is a woman who does not give up. She is overpowering with her unrefined, desperate attempts to get a portion of life infusion in the gerontology clinic of death and hopelessness. She desperately grasps the last thread, the nonexistent indication of a better life in Serbia. The Strengthened by Iron is a vitalistically dark and playfully sinister drama. In it, the life has to prevail, against all odds. Regardless if one is a child of the past, present or future.

Symbolic presentation of harsh reality in transitional, post-apocalyptic Serbia, a country plundered and devastated with various economic and political experiments, is a testimony of high artistic achievement of the young author. The plot is characteristic for being multi layered and associative. The speech vibrates with tension between realistic matrix and unobtrusive poetic stylization. Dialogues and monologues are measured according to realistic matrix, social and political context, and according to modern Serbian writers and their predecessors whose works represent the tradition from which the artist’s artistic attitude has been formed of. In its complex inter-textual operation, the play leans on trends set by Biljana Srbljanović and Milena Marković, each one according to her own dramatic sensibility, but it is at the same time different from their works regarding its mature and original solutions. (...)
Atmosphere of the play indicates subtle political issues, but they do not prevail. (...)
In Strengthened by Iron, the relationship to classical drama traditions moves from taking over certain genre formats, to their poetical decomposing. Although it looks like picture book of modern reality, the text contains a series of adjusted motifs from classical (drama) literature. The music is effective in pursuing the plot while enhancing it in moral-philosophical sense, thus confirming that this is a completely contemporary and live drama. (...)
The main character is armoured with bad luck, she is “strengthened by iron” of life, encrusted and petrified, but not lost for life itself. Whatever it may be like. And this is the most important humanistic aspect of this lively play.
Boško Suvajdžic: from “Epilogue“, “Modern Serbian Drama”, no. 48, Belgrade 2012

Gorana Balančević was born in Kraljevo in 1988. She graduated from the Department of Dramaturgy at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade in 2011 with the play Strengthened by Iron (Theatre and Radio Dramaturgy Course) and the script for a film Lana in The City of Wonders (Film and Television Dramaturgy Course). In 2009, the Second Programme of Radio Belgrade broadcasts her dramatisation of They, written after Bora Stanković’s story of the same title, directed by Saša Latinović. The same year, her short story Jinxed Recipe for Silk Sweets receives a Special Award at the Olympiad of the Municipality of Palilula. At the competition for script for the Joy of Europe 2010 Festival, her script titled Books are a Window into the World received the First Prize; the program was performed in Sava Convention Centre in Belgrade, it was directed by Đurđa Tešić and broadcast live by the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation. Her graduation play Strengthened by Iron won in the anonymous competition of the Playwrights Association of Serbia in 2011, thus making Balančević the first woman and the youngest recipient of “Branislav Nušić” Award. The play, translated by the author (titled Iron-Bound), had its public reading at the Women Playwrights International Conference in Sweden in 2012. The same year, her text for children The Sugarbabes, made it into the top best plays for children and young people at the competition of ASSITEJ of Serbia; her story My Life with a Nymphomaniac, Sociopath, Married Couple, Great Christian and maybe a Little Iceberg, made it into the top selection for “Laza K. Lazarević” Award for the best Serbian contemporary story; Magazine “Povelja” published her short story The Basement Portion for Three; play Centre for Emergency Landing won in the competition of the Balkans’ Drama for the Young People. Balančević is the recipient of the Annual Award of Literary Club Kraljevo for the collection of stories The Grinding. In addition, Balančević is the author of a script for a half an hour-long film Buba and I. She is a member of the Association of Playwrights of Serbia and the Women Playwrights International Conference.

Djurdja Tešić graduated from the Theatre Directing Department at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade in 2002. She directed the following productions:
Line by Damir Vijuk (Bitef Theatre, 2000)
Casanova by David Greig (Serbian National Theatre, Novi Sad, 2002)
The Black Milk by Vassily Sigarev (The National Theatre in Belgrade, 2003)
Everyman by Goran Stefanovski (Atelier 212, 2004)
Blasted by Sarah Kane (The Belgrade Drama Theatre, 2005)
Momo by Michael Ende (“Duško Radović” Theatre, 2005)
The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico Garcia Lorca (National Theatre of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, 2005)
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (Atelier 212, 2006)
Miss Julie by August Strindberg (The National Theatre of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, 2007)
The Three Sisters by Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (The National Theatre of Republika Srpska, 2008)
Milk by Vasilis Katsikonouris (The Belgrade Drama Theatre, 2008)
Pool (No Water) by Mark Ravenhill (National Theatre in Belgrade, 2009)
The Lord of the Flies by Tatjana Ilić, after W. Golding’s novel (“Boško Buha” Theatre, 2009)
The Wedding by Jovan Sterija Popović (National Theatre of Republika Srpska, Banja Luka, 2010)
Novecento – Boka Hotel by Stevan Koprivica (Cultural Centre Tivat, 2010)
Public Servants by Ronald Harwood (National Theatre in Belgrade, 2010)
All about My Mother by Samuel Adamson (Belgrade Drama Theatre, 2011)
Strange Loves by Maja Pelević (“Duško Radović” Theatre, 2011)
Greta Garbo’s Secret by Miro Gavran (Madlenianum Opera and Theatre, 2012)
In 2010, she received the Special Award for New Theatrical Tendencies at the International TIBA Festival for production of The Lord of the Flies.

The production of Strengthened by Iron was done after Gorana Balančević’s text. She is a young playwright, who managed to portray the feeling of profound disillusionment regarding our corrupt and immoral society in her first play. In a theatrically inspired way, through the form of socially engaged musical, she created touching characters with a strong influence, who make us address the feeling of humiliation resulting from years of patient waiting for better times, during which, however, we were just mere observers of our entire country’s devastation. Questions of who is to blame and how it all happened remain unanswered. Nonetheless, the issue of destiny of workers is relevant to all of us, because a worker in this play represents a person who struggles to maintain the minimum of human dignity by maintaining her/his right to work. The struggle thus becomes a struggle for the meaning of life and, furthermore, a struggle for life itself.

Premiere performance

Premiere, 15 March 2013. / Main Stage

Director Đurđa Tešić                
Dramaturge Slavko Milanović            
Set and costume designer Zorana Petrov
Composer Vladimir Pejković
Stage movement Damjan Kecojević         
Stage speech Ljiljana Mrkić Popović, Phd

Premiere cast: 
Vesela (Happy) Jovanović Dušanka Stojanović Glid
Dragan Miloš Đorđević
Sanja, Vesela’s older daughter Marija Vicković
Nina, Vesela’s younger daughter Sloboda Mićalović
Radica, Vesela’s colleague Anastasia Mandić
Mitra, a cook Zlatija Ocokoljić Ivanović 
Slobodanka – Sloba, warehouse worker Mariana Aranđelović
Hristina, cleaner Olga Odanović
The Boss Zoran Ćosić
The Boss’s Boss Predrag Ejdus
Elderly ladies Aleksandra Nikolić, Gorjana Janjić, Anđelka Ristić

Producer Barbara Tolevska
Stage manager Đorđe Jovanović           
Prompter Sandra Todić
Production assistant Marija Milenković
Assistant set and costume designer Nevena Prodanović
Light operator Srđan Mićević
Make up crew chif Zoran Mirić
Sound operator Roko Mimica