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/ About the Omnibus /

The End of the World in Three Acts is an omnibus of three texts by Kristina Kegljen, Katja Gorečan, and Tijana Grumić that won a public call for the Shadow Pandemic: Hidden Voices project. Of the 69 submissions, these three stood out not only because their exciting narratives are told in three completely different authorial voices but also because the three authors went beyond the public call guidelines to ensure that their voice remains authentic. What makes projects such as the Shadow Pandemic noteworthy is the fact that the call was issued to female authors only, yet received a great response, with 69 submissions over a relatively short time, which speaks volumes about how limited the opportunities are for domestic dramatic texts to thrive in this region.

The End of the World in Three Acts begins with Kristina Kegljen’s “Under the Skirt,” a story that, contemporary as it may seem, unfolds a female universe that could have been set in any other time. It looks into an archetypal relationship between a mother and daughter, focused on each other in their claustrophobic isolated life with an abusive family member. Consequently, both often resort to fantasies together to escape their own reality. The mother craves freedom, and the daughter craves love. We take both as a given, a basic human right, but the violence they suffer repeatedly takes both away. Condemned to look after a disabled abuser and adjust to his biological rhythm and needs, they lose track of what they started or finished. The author thus creates a nonlinear poetic narrative that often intentionally disorients the reader. Even though mother Zdravka and daughter Sonja are victims of abuse, they refuse to accept their role. Instead, they actively seek escape, perform witchcraft, dig a hole in the ground, and prepare stuffed cabbage rolls.

The second act brings Katja Gorečan’s text “The Activists,” a post-dramatic manifesto against the position of cultural workers in contemporary Slovenian society, quite familiar to the citizens of the three post-transitional countries involved in this project. The text blatantly exposes the hypocrisy of our shared cultural setting that pays but a lip service to honouring the working class and women as it lays bare the absurd situation in which abusers, professional and sexual, are the loudest champions of women’s rights, and in which culture funding serves, quite paradoxically, as yet another means of exploitation. The author shows that the public discourse may have changed thanks to the feminist and workers’ struggle, yet the essence has remained as vile as before, if not even more so with all this cosmetically augmented reality created by the media. Being polyphonic and inviting other voices, this act opens with documentary scenes showing female performers and cultural workers speak about their work experience.

The play concludes with “The World Deserves to End” by Tijana Grumić, who continues her literary journey into non-anthropocentric perspectives with a prologue of a sow who chastises a human gathering for their hypocrisy. For animals in the food industry, the end of the world came long ago. By juxtaposing the preparation of a roast piglet with the “preparation” of a dramatic text, the author takes a witty and self-ironic look at the state of the (regional) cultural scene and her own artistic work, which is rarely self-sufficient but depends on the preferences of employers. Besides the sow and the author, the text depicts the XXXX character, her mother, and her landlady at the beginning of the pandemic, which only catalyses alienation, housing issues, and job insecurity, where all blame shifts to the worker. They all meet in a story that takes a contemporary hyper-realistic dramatic form.

All three texts have a strong feminist approach to the subject of abuse and neglect of women during the Covid-19 pandemic. Unaware of each other, all three texts build a world of women’s resistance to falling victim to an aggressive patriarchy, of workers’ resistance to being invisible to neoliberal capitalism, of authors’ resistance to writing linearly structured, tidy three-act dramas on abuse and neglect as if it all started with the pandemic, of resistance to depending on public calls, to working so as to apply to them in hope of receiving some (financial) reward.

Juxtaposed in this directorial-dramaturgical adaptation, the three texts have created an exciting world of different female histories, histories which are our own, with familiar home and work settings imbued by female solidarity and strength, where women are women, workers, mothers, artists, and witches who warn us, each in her own way, that the end of the world has long arrived for the abused, neglected, marginalised, and silenced. No matter how much we believe to have progressed in terms of humanity, patriarchy has not lost its sway over the intimate family space, nor has neoliberal capitalism lost its momentum in abolishing basic workers’ rights in our region.

Kristina Kegljen, Katja Gorečan, and Tijana Grumić are established playwrights, writers, and dramaturges, whose texts continue to make genuine feminist dramatic literature of the region. As a cultural worker, a comrade playwright, and the dramaturge of this play, I believe that texts such as these and the voices of all three authors are empowering and refreshing, especially under the direction of Selma Spahić, who honours them and only adds her own voice there where the texts call for a dialogue and who insists that such stories must and deserve to reach big stages.