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The Diary of a Madman

The 27th of March was the World’s Theatre Day and I had to chance to celebrate it by seeing the Diary of a Madman play, written by Nikolai Gogol and has been playing booked up for 6 years in Turkey. This is a one-act play for 1.5 hours and has been played a lot of times by several theater companies all around the world. In Turkey, the producer of the play is Ankara National Theatre and they’ve come to Istanbul only for 1 week. Its online tickets were fully booked in 10 minutes and people were waiting for hours just to find a standing space. Therefore, I felt very lucky when I received the invitation on the 27th, which is also the World’s Theatre Day and had to share this experience with you.

The story of Diary of a Madman, written in 1842, is considered as one of the oldest cases of schizophrenia while it contains one of the earliest and most complete descriptions of schizophrenia. The tale centers on the life of Poprishchin, a low ranking civil servant, who has been humiliated and mobbed during the repressive era of Nicholas I. His diary records how he has fallen in love with the daughter of a senior official, his yearn for being noticed by beautiful woman and his gradual slide into insanity. As his madness deepens, he begins to suspect two dogs of having a love affair and believes he has discovered letters sent between them. Finally, he begins to believe himself to be the heir to the throne of Spain, and subsequently he is confined in an asylum. During the maltreatment in the asylum, he has a very sarcastic and sensitive call to his mom and this is the end of the story.

This is just the summary of the play for those who have no idea about it. The reason behind my motivation to share it with you is another story: the performance of the actor and the importance of the production designer and art director.

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The whole play takes place on the top of a winch, which only has a little cage just for 1 person. 216192-3-4-7aad0While I was trying to figure out how the actor will use that winch, I witnessed a miserable man who could fit into that little cage, but also went beyond the winch and did acrobatics on the thin lines, who kept acting sometimes upside down position sometimes by holding the ceiling funnels.

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He only got 3 accessorizes, an umbrella, a coat and a bucket, but he used all parts of his body as an instrument. We, the captive audience, witnessed a real schizophrenia case, his gradual slide into insanity and even felt indisposed. That successful actor’s name is Erdal Besikcioglu. Simultaneously, he acts in one of the well-known Turkish series, however calling what he is doing on the stage as acting would be underestimated. The saliva drips form his mouth and sweat drops were the tangible poof of his real insanity. While he was acting around the winch yet at the same time conducting it up and down, the lights were changing in accordance with his moves. His extraordinary performance deserved 3 times curtain call and standing ovation but I have to admit that his success was bolstered with the performance of producer, art director and his make up artist.

Before writing, I looked up for the performances abroad, however it is seemed totally different to me. Besides sharing the substantial points of an astonishing performance, I hope to have a chance to discuss with those who watched the show and discover the differences as the actor, producer and country differs.


Image source:

Elvin Levinler

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