On October 27, I went to listen to Vaiko Eplik and watch the recording of Mati Unt’s production “Stiil ehk Mis on maailma nimi” (“Style aka What is the Name of the World”, premiere October 31, 2003). Both were in Von Krahl’s Kinosalong (Cinema Saloon) programme. I was not the only one, there were around 100 people there. However, I was one of only three that stayed until the end. Kinosalong is one of the most fantastic and beautiful events, consisting of music and a theatre recording. Think about it: the first hour was filled by jokes and brackets by Eplik who also sang – the second hour offered the recording of „Stiil ehk Mis on maailma nimi” by Mati Unt, one of the most exciting directors of Estonia. In conclusion – nothing could be more stylish or beautiful than these two things put together. Nor funnier, in a way.
The opening hour by Vaiko Eplik was wonderful. His absurd-sounding songs, where he complains about his stomach being empty, nettles, love, writing songs for song festivals (as in sex al fresco), conquered the hall and the hearts. The singing was followed by a clumsy 5-minute transmission in order to tune into something maybe serious, maybe absurd, maybe all out cynical (as the whole cast had red fingernails), maybe a tint-buying old lady replayed in 99 different styles once punk-rocking, then hesitating, then hiding under a red canvas. Only, the nuances and words were hard to follow, as the recording seemed to have lost its sound. Literally – the crackling rendered the text at times almost inaudible and incomprehensible. Therefore, after 15 minutes of the recording of “Style”, three fourths of the audience had walked out. Nuances are important – just like in Eplik’s songs the feathery monster or Wednesday lottery at times turn out to be important – it is important to hear the words from the stage or the screen.
Meaning, the other two hours were a pain to withstand, so it is no wonder than the floor of Von Krahl, covered by Eplik’s song, emptied during the recording. It may have been caused by the quality of sound, as the 2003 production seemed to have completely disappeared from the tape, it may have been caused by the confusion as to when the screening started, it may have been caused by the venue itself, which does not suppose the audience should continuously pay attention to a screening. But most certainly, the poor quality of the sound can be blamed, as it ate away a lot and which neither Mati Unt nor Raymond Queneau (whose book „99 Style Exercises” Unt was inspired by) may have considered pleasant.
The screenings of experimental productions are somehow different than experiencing them in the here and now. The strange distant space – it is now more than 11 years since Mati Unt’s death and 13 from the birth of the performance. Even the clothes worn by the audience, slipping by in the recording, appear strange. And this moment – this looking for stylishness, which gathered steam as a craze for vintage in the noughties, has gained a whole other meaning by today. The way how Anneli Saro begins the December 5, 2003 article on Unt’s „Style”, referring first to the prime minister of the time Juhan Parts, seems now almost comical. Perhaps today an upset gender equality advisor would run to tell Saro about gender awareness, if Saro would try to classify and stylise the prime minister. Although, what would the tabloid media talk about if not the style of the president or the first lady, or how would Vaiko Eplik justify his presence and contact with Mati Unt’s „Style” – if not with his Italian shoes. Nevertheless, I would have liked to hear better, what happened on stage in 2003.
It is thankworthy to find old productions and make them a part of today. But if you just cannot hear what an actor says on stage and there are no subtitles either to support whatever is happening on the screen, then everything is lost. You cannot talk about Mati Unt or the young
Tiina Tauraite or Erkki Laur – you can only be silent. Because, on one hand, the production is suffocated by silence, and, on the other, the viewer does not have the air to give sense to what is visible. The question remains, if what cannot be seen or heard properly needs to be given sense to again – that, which has, in a way, lost its actuality anyway. Perhaps it should be sensed in a new way: through a shaky camera and glimpses of cast dressed in reddish black – somewhere halfway through silence. Through the prism of Vaiko Eplik’s exciting songs.