Two friends see each other again after eight years of separation. Maria (Vjosa Maloku) is a settled and successful painter, while Laura (Semira Latifi) has spent the intervening years struggling to become an artist. They meet in Maria’s apartment, and rehash the past over whiskey. The source of their conflict is unclear and it’s the audience’s job to put the pieces of their story together. They throw endless accusations at each other during the duration of the play’s one hour, although it’s clear they once had a profound relationship.
Director and actor Ilire Vinca (Sworn Virgin, The Forgiveness of Blood) adapted the Colour of August, a 1988 play written by celebrated Spanish playwright Paloma Pedrero, for Kosovo’s audience – the translation allows the actresses to speak in the Gheg dialect, which makes for more natural and easy flowing dialogue. Pedrero’s storylines are inhabited by only a few characters interacting in ordinary, everyday settings – the push and pull of people’s relationships and inner contradictions is how her stories take flight. Her other work includes a play on a separated couple arguing over who will keep their dog (The Voucher), and a play about an upper class woman stuck on a train with a working class man (A Night in the Subway).The everyday intersections of sex, gender and class come to the surface in these stories.
In the context of Kosovo, it’s a welcome change to see a play about the friendship and past romance between two women: the complicated and ambiguous nature of their relationship is tackled with directly. The climactic scene in which Maria and Laura paint each other’s naked bodies has been described as commentary on women’s creativity and the body as a kind of cultural text (Phyllis Zatlin, “Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation”) – this adaptation presents this scene primarily as an emotional and sexual confrontation.
This, however, is a world defined by heteronormativity and only one of our protagonists have stepped outside of that mould. The core betrayal of their friendship is Maria’s marriage to Juan, Laura’s former lover. But the object of desire in the Colour of August isn’t Juan, it’s the reclamation of their relationship. The limits of their world are such that they can’t move beyond them without great cost – and this pressure makes their differences irreconcilable, and their relationship a source of pain rather than pleasure. The Colour of August sheds a light on the secret compromises and private tragedies that define life for so many, and honors that pain.