About our interviews: we don’t ask questions, we listen to stories.
Interview and photographs: Andrei Runcanu @andreiruncanu
Performer, director and choreographer, Răzvan Mazilu is one the most prestigious figures in Romanian theatre. Awarded with impressive prizes like the interpretation award offered by The Association for the outreach of the national Opera of Paris (AROP) when he was 21, Răzvan established himself as an interdisciplinary artist. Contemporary dance, cabaret, opera, musicals, you name it, he’s done it. His latest hit musical, We Will Rock You, that he directed, choreoghraphed and designed costumes for, premiered a couple of months ago with amazing reviews.
Răzvan and I met for the interview in a little bar inside the Athenee Palace Hilton Bucharest on a Sunday evening. We were the only customers and we sat in these big and comfortable armchairs in a dimly lit corner. It was the perfect atmosphere for taking trips down memory lane. And let’s not forget the gin & tonics and the proseccos.
Early in the conversation we talked about our favorite foreign countries. Portugal, he says, is where he found an escape from depression and where he has surely lived in a past life. Talking about unexpected encounters with celebrities in our travels, Răzvan mentions this episode from London: “I was there to see Cabaret, the musical, and during intermission my friend Adina sees this guy in the lobby and says <<Isn’t that Jean Paul Gaultier>>? I’m like <<No, he just looks like him>>. She says <<No, no, it’s him>> and then I look closely and realize it was him. Some tourists asked him to take a picture of them. They didn’t realize who he was”.
And as romance often follows us in our travels, we even found a Pasolini reference in Răzvan’s encounters. “I was in Paris, performing and also participating in a dance contest. I was staying in a tiny tiny hotel near the Tour Eiffel. I was running out of money, the performances were over and I wanted to stay for the contest but couldn’t afford the hotel anymore. Before going to Paris, I saw this woman in a trolleybus in Bucharest. She looked different than all the other people and I noticed and remembered her. A few days later, a good friend of mine tells me that one of his friends, a famous art critic, Aurelia Mocanu, Reli, saw me on a trolley bus. She didn’t know who I was, but when she described me to him, he knew it had to be me. And he was right, we were both in the same trolleybus and noticed each other. And later he introduced me to this eccentric woman. Then she coincidentally happens to receive a scholarship in Paris at the same time I was in Paris. And as I was walking near the Grand Palais, worrying about money and how and where to stay, I bump into her. She was with this Canadian translator named Debra. And after talking to Reli about my money problem, she convinces Debra to invite me to stay at her place. Her apartment was just across the street from my hotel, so I literally moved my stuff to the other side of the street. Debra was around forty-five and I was in my early twenties. And one evening she organizes this Romanian soiree with me, Reli, and two gentlemen, a painter and a philologist. And during that soiree all three developed a crush on me: Debra, the painter and the philologist. And Reli, who noticed everything, said that it was like in Pasolini’s filmTeorema. <<Good thing they’re not a family>> she said. I loved the seduction game that night and the stories didn’t stop there, but these seduction games are dangerous. What goes around comes around later in life. But that night I loved the attention”.
As this story slowly fades in another sip of prosecco, we start talking about life on tour: first and only time he was booed on stage, loudly and persistently, in Marseille and the shock that came with that; then the atmosphere in Italy in the 90s that made it the ideal place where he would have emigrated to. Then we jump from Italy to Greece, from Greece to stolen kisses during rehearsals for a musical, then we jump to childhood stories and how he loved to dress up in his mother’s dresses and put on shows for his parents’ guests. And as I watch him, I realize he still does it. More subtly, but he still dresses up and he still puts on these almost unnoticeable shows. And what gives him away are his sudden bursts into laughter in the middle of conversations. That’s when you know he was playing all along and the child is still there, having fun.