Premiered on 24.09.2017 at the National Theater of Kosovo
By: Jeton Neziraj | Directed by: Blerta Neziraj | Actors: Tristan Halilaj, Bujar Ahmeti, Shengyl Ismaili, Semira Latifi, Verona Koxha | Luan Durmishi (vocal) | Stage and costumes: Sebastian Ellrich | Music: Irena Popovic | Choreography: Florian Bilbao | Stage manager: Lendita Idrizi / Production ass.: Sophia Sinan | Technical director: Denis Berisha | Light: Mursel Bekteshi, Denis Berisha.
Watch trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPLrBzQGk_E
Produced by Qendra Multimedia
ABOUT THE SHOW
55 shades of gay is a burlesque story about LGBTI politics in the Balkans and Europe. Local Balkan politicians try to manipulate and deceive EU officials, the humanitarian mercenaries of international NGOs often exploit the homophobic environment to raise funds, so they can implement their social and educational projects [such as workshops and seminars on how to use condoms], while EU officials, using their superior financial and political position, try to subjugate everyone.
In this trinity [Manipulation. Abuse. Subjugation], the question posed by the play is as follows:
Is sexual liberation possible in the Balkans? Or, could the Balkans start a ‘Balkan spring of sexual revolution’?
In the play, a gay couple apply to get married in a conservative provincial town which is deeply homophobic. They make their request at a time when the Italian association Don Bosco has begun building a condom manufacturing factory in the town, a project that is financially supported by the European Union and is intended to alleviate unemployment, which in that town is as high as 90%. Intellectuals, artists, politicians, religious leaders and professional grenade launchers try to stop the marriage from happening, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is permitted by the country’s constitution, which the prime minister signed according to EU instructions.
55 shades of gay is performed by a cast of 5 brilliant Kosovar actors and produced by an eminent team of theater artists from Germany, Kosova, France and Serbia.
SELECTED QUOTES ABOUT THE SHOW
“A great source of the humor in Neziraj’s play comes from the hyperbolic reaction of the town to the innocent wedding plans, as well as, paradoxically, the Kosovar concern about how they look to the proverbial “rest of the world”: While the townspeople simply can’t accept the idea of two men tying the knot, they also worry about how their reputation– particular when looked upon by the progressive European Union. The script even inserts a bit of American-centric humor into the show: The aforementioned list of “artists and intellectuals” includes a collection of well-known American right wingers. The talented, energetic cast– several of whom play multiple roles– clearly has fun with this production”.
Jed Ryan, Lavander After Dark
“55 Shades of Gay,” …is an explosion of burlesque, music and possibly offensive humor; it is simply a riot.” Prishtina Insight
“Perhaps more than any other playwright working in the country today, Jeton Neziraj is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable subject matter in Kosovo. When his latest outing, 55 Shades of Gay, had its premiere last autumn police were stationed at the door. As it turned out they were not needed. There were no death threats, no disruptions to the performance and no vandalism of the enormous promotional poster that, as Neziraj pointed out, hung from the National Theatre for two weeks undisturbed.” Jack Davies, Equal Times
“But first and foremost, the company knows this show has to entertain, and 55 Shades does a great job of it. The pace is fast and quick. Some of the techniques hit their mark excellently, like the tree outside the mayor’s office which listens on the proceedings and a few others don’t. But the play more often takes flight than not. It is definitely not a piece for those that like their shows deliberate and linear. But if you are looking for a flight of fun and expression of freedom, 55 Shades of Gay: Balkan Spring of Sexual Revolution provides that.” reviewsoffbroadway.blogspot.com, USA
“This irreverent, provocative comedy, staged originally in the burlesque style when it premiered in Pristina in 2017, sets the EU on a collision course with the locals of a provincial Kosovar town when an Italian official’s insistence that he be allowed to marry his boyfriend–and the local mayor’s refusal to grant a licence–puts the long-awaited building of an EU-funded condom factory and Kosovo’s hopes for a future at the table in Brussels at risk. Penned by the prolific former artistic director of the National Theatre of Kosovo, this view of international intervention from the recipient’s perspective treats the locals’ homophobic bigotry and the international community’s patronizing attitudes with equal quantities of ridicule.” William Gregory, The Theatre Times
“Jeton Neziraj, regarded as the “Kafka of the Balkans” – is an innovative playwright from Kosovo whose plays are also staged in Germany. Produced by Qendra Multimedia” those plays provoke heated debates and reconcile at the same time in Europe`s youngest country. […] Following a well-known international erotic-story Kosovo’s most famous playwright has titled his play “55 Shades of Gay” and has – as always – searched for a socially controversial topic: The widespread homophobia of Kosovo- Albanian society. And as usual Jeton Neziraj processes his critical attitude in Albanian and by creating absurdly ironic scenes.” German public radio
“55 Shades of Grey” is about the love between two men who want to marry each other. The topic of gay marriage touches on what in Kosovo is a taboo. The gay community here exists in complete concealment. If it dares to enter the public realm, restrictions are to be expected. Groups prepared for violence are deployed that attempt to suppress with intimidation that which is not allowed. On the theater poster, two men are kissing. The provocation starts there and flows through the entire piece. But it would not be a piece by Jeton Neziraj if an ironic flair wasn’t floating over every scene. This irony, difficult to calculate, is the force that propels his plays. One never knows who will be the next to be insulted. Irony is necessary to cope with life in Kosovo. Too many contradictions, to much heroic failure. According to Kierkegaard, irony helps us reconcile contradictions on the level of a higher form of madness. It’s exactly that which characterizes the plays by Jeton Neziraj. And Blerta Neziraj finds the corresponding rhythm, music, and movement. Blerta’s theater is a poor theater in the best sense of the word, a theater that is totally concentrated on the actors without extravangant furnishings. An ironic theater that prefers to let contradictions stand for themselves instead of reconciling them.” Ralph Hammerthaler, Theater der Zeit