Written by Draga Potočnjak and choreographed by Branko Potočan, Gather Your Birds is an insightful and poetic piece of absurdist theatre, a drama enfolding between two people who are nearing the end of their lives, have each other for companionship, and only a retirement home to look forward to. Their final journey is full of impressions, memories, facetious arguments, bitter secrets and little acts of affection. It's as if life had shrivelled to a path of remembrance and camaraderie, as well as delusions, dementia, poverty and unfulfilled dreams, walking a fine line between yesterday and tomorrow. But, is tomorrow already here? What are we going to do tomorrow – without each other?
Gather Your Birds is a metaphor for a journey of a couple, a journey both realistic and surreal. A journey undertaken by the Old Man and the Old Woman; he's still impetuous and taunting, she persistent and sassy. There is also a stream of free yet binding association, a reflection of the ageing Western society, of the perennial question of life and death, and at the same time a ‘carbon footprint’ of the post-pandemic world in which the reality that we had known is being erased on a daily basis. And as we already know that the world is ruptured, as images of the past are merging with projections for the future, the Old Man (Sandi Pavlin) and the Old Woman (Jadranka Tomažič) travel on. But it nonetheless seems that, despite everything that has been said and left unsaid, the world outside no longer exists, as if their journey were populated by no other people, not even The Girl (Romana Šalehar). They are accompanied only by the piano (Matjaž Marinič), which sets the pace for their vanishing into eternity and connects them to the rulers of the sky. Birds.
Although written in 2008, Gather your Birds is a play of increasing relevance. European population is ageing inevitably, and politicians are turning a blind eye, pretending that nothing can be done about it. This conduct is not unlike the behaviour of the two dramatis personae of Gather Your Birds, the Old Woman and the Old Man, who are about to move into a retirement home. While utterly determined to go on with this move, and ready for the transition, they immediately get lost – and keep getting lost. Although we, the viewers observing them, get the impression that they are not actually going anywhere. That they are simply going round in circles. The elderly couple are not aware of this, because their whole home, their whole world, all their previous and present lives, are travelling with them. It seems that they're not leaving anything, that they're not going anywhere, that all this time they're simply staying put. Here. In front of us. With us. Their lively and occasionally impassioned dialogue allows for mere fragments of meaning and sense, morsels that merge into a lyrical poetics of the absurd while searching for a palpable mosaic of life. Gather your Birds is an allegorical and poetic sketch of an expiring life. The three protagonists exist in the same (performance) space, but in different realities. They neither see nor communicate with each other.
Branko Potočan is a dancer, choreographer and educator. After high school, Potočan attended the Faculty of Sport in Ljubljana then carved out a career as a professional dancer. In 1986 he joined the Ljubljana Dance Theatre and, as member of this avant-garde group led by Ksenija Hribar, co-created all its major productions. Between 1990 and 1993, together with the world-renowned choreographer Wim Vandekeybus and his dance company Ultima Vez, Potočan performed at the world’s major dance and theatre venues. He founded the Vitkar Institute and the Fourklor Physical Theatre Group in 1994. For over two decades, Branko has worked as a choreographer or movement consultant for all Slovenian theatres and has been asserting himself internationally. He has also made a name for himself as an educator (contemporary circus, physical theatre, aerial disciplines). He is Artistic Director of the Rdeči revirji International Performing Arts Festival, which takes place annually in Zasavje.
Draga Potočnjak is a theatre and film actress, author and playwright. She joined Mladinsko Theatre in 1981 and has co-created productions in other Slovenian theatres. Until 1991, she often worked with theatres in former Yugoslavia, including KPGT. She was a member of Koreodrama. Between 1992 and 1996, she led a theatre group composed of young Bosnian displaced refugees, Nepopravljivi optimisti. She has written dozens of radio and theatre plays staged nationally and internationally. Her plays have been translated into ten languages.
Sandi Pavlin joined Mladinsko Theatre in 1965 and worked there until his retirement in 2007. At Mladinsko, Sandi Pavlin compiled an impressive list of one hundred and ten roles. His last project, in which he appeared as a regular member of the Mladinsko ensemble, was a large international co-production, Requiem for a Metamorphosis, directed by the world-famous Jan Fabre. He also performed at the Študentsko aktualno gledališče, an experimental theatre founded by director Dušan Jovanović, at EG Glej, the Mini Theatre, Slovenian National Theatre Nova Gorica, Prešeren Theatre Kranj, the City Theatre Ptuj, Anton Podbevšek Theatre Novo mesto, etc. He performed in several films, including Čudoviti prah, Sreča na vrvici, Nobeno sonce, Nekdo drug. In 2020, he played the lead role in San Remo, a film directed by M. Mandić.
After graduating from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television, and a short period as a freelancer, Jadranka Tomažič joined the ensemble of the Slovenian People's Theatre Celje in 1970. She had played a number of visible roles at the People’s Theatre before joining the Mladinsko Theatre in 1981, where she remained until her retirement in 2007. Throughout her prolific acting career Jadranka Tomažič performed over eighty roles in institutional and non-institutional theatres and after her retirement continued to collaborate mainly with the Mladinsko Theatre and Anton Podbevšek Theatre. She also appeared in various TV and radio plays and the iconic children's series, Moj prijatelj Piki Jakob.
Director, Choreographer and Set Designer: Branko Potočan
Old Woman: Jadranka Tomažič
Old Man: Sandi Pavlin
Bird, Girl: Romana Šalehar
Pianist: Matjaž Marinič
She, He: Draga Potočnjak, Milan Marinič
Dramaturg and Assistant Director: Andreja Kopač
Music: Matjaž Marinič
Audio recording: Silvo Zupančič
Language Consultant: Mateja Dermelj
Costume Designer: Slavica Janošević
Make-up: Barbara Pavlin
Photographs: Drago Videmšek
Production: Moment Maribor, Cankarjev dom, Mladinsko Theatre, Parnas Cultural Society
Realization of the online premiere
Video recording directed by: Matjaž Pograjc
Editing: Dušan Ojdanič
Cameramen: Sven Horvat, Boris Prevec, Dare Kragelj
Sound: Silvo Zupančič
Production: Parnas Cultural Society, Cankarjev dom, Mladinsko Theatre
The film, produced by Moment Maribor and co-produced by Cankarjev dom, Mladinsko Theatre and the Parnas Cultural Society, was made by the creators of the theatre performance Gather Your Birds during the rehearsal period.