National Theatre of Kosovo/Teatri Metropol, premiere 1st December 2023
Are you afraid that you are replaceable? If so, this show will play upon your fears. All About Eve is inspired by the classic 1950 film of the same name, written and directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz. It is a story of ego and aging, the worry that we will one day become obsolete, and though the story is set in the world of theatre and theatre artists, it can easily apply to any other context or profession.
Brought to the Albanian stage by the well-known actor and director Besmir Bitraku, All About Eve is performed by a cast of Albanian and Kosovar artists, who have all done a wonderful job of capturing the beauty and magic of the original. Margo Channing (Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi) is a Broadway star in her 40s who, at the height of her career, meets Eve Harrington (Ermira Hysaj Çerkozi), a 24-year-old who not only aspires to be an actress, but it transpires also wants to steal Margo’s life and fame at any cost, making terrible compromises in order to do so. Eve tries to manipulate all the other characters with her air of false naivety and her apparent devotion to her “idol” Margo.
As Margo, Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi inhabits the role of the stage diva perfectly. She is completely convincing as a star of Margo’s calibre, both in terms of her physicality and the way in which she conveys Margo’s elegant arrogance and aristocratic attitude. Ermira Hysaj Çerkozi is similarly masterful in the role of Eve, at once very sensual and very organic. Both women have a wonderful chemistry on stage with each other.
The role of Addison DeWitt, the manipulative theatre critic who wants to possess Eve, is also breathtakingly played by Hervin Çuli. He plays Addison as a fascinatingly ambiguous character, and his presence enhances the show. The most powerful scene in the play is a confrontation between Eve and Addison, in which he threatens and intimidates her. Through Ermira Hysaj Çerkozi’s performance, we follow the arc of Eve’s character, from her selfishness and jealousy, her cold-blooded greed, to the hopelessness she faces after her defeat by DeWitt.
The remaining cast., Adrian Morina (as Margo’s lover Bill Simpson), Kushtrim Sheremeti (as playwright Lloyd Richards), Natasha Sela (as Margo’s maid Birdie), Rovena Lule Kuka (as her best friend Karen Richards) all give decent performances, but it is the performances of Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi, Ermira Hysaj Çerkozi and Hervin Çuli who really give the show its colour.
In the ending of the original film, after Eve has achieved her goal of supplanting Margo, a young girl, Phoebe, approaches Eve as a fan in much the same way as Eve approached Margo at the beginning, but in the show, the role of Phoebe is also played by Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi. Even though she is presented as another character, this leaves a lot of room for interpretation. In my opinion, this undermines and violates the fact that Margo has come to accept herself as she is, to accept that there are some roles and characters it is no longer appropriate for her to perform, but this scene could be misperceived as saying Margo cannot accept this fact and that she instead returns to get revenge, or perhaps even has developed a personality disorder related to her lost glamour. Can it be read in this way? Of course. The fear of being replaced cannot always be successfully overcome in such a perfect way; in some cases the human ego, especially the artistic one, can lead to fatal personality problems. Obviously this was not the intended subtext (regardless of my interpretation) but the reason why Besmir Bitraku chose Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi to also play the role of Phoebe remains unclear, since it is not given much space to develop.
All About Eve is a classic of cinema, its dilemmas and themes as well as its characters are powerful, memorable and resonant. The show captures these qualities, as well as the imagery and feel of the original film, recreating many elements in terms of its structure, narrative and dialogue. Besmir Bitraku has a strong vision for theatre, especially in respect to the innovation (in an Albanian theatrical context) of ‘translating’ films into stage works. Flonja Kaba and Ina Gjonçi, who translated the drama, also contribute to bringing this show to the Albanian and Kosovar stages.
The production is also visually striking with attractive use of reds and golds. The stage has been designed to represent a theatre dressing room for the performers, with a mirror that stands all the time in the centre of the stage providing a reminder of the protagonist’s inner drama as well as an invitation to the audience to reflect.
Directed by Besmir Bitraku//Costume designer: Sofi Karaj
Cast: Albulena Kryeziu Bokshi, Ermira Hysaj Çerkozi, Hervin Çulim, Adrian Morina, Kushtrim Sheremeti, Natasha Sela, Rovena Lule Kuka