Stage adaptation Tatjana Doma
Play for Children
Opening September 2019
Director Ivana Djilas
Swiss writer Johanna Spyri (1827-1901) began writing quite late in her life, at the age of forty. Before that, as was often the case in those times, she was mainly concerned with raising her son. She wrote about life in the countryside and published books intended primarily for children to cheer them up with stories. Heidi, a classical youth fiction novel, was published in 1881, with the subtitle For children and for those who love children. Although most of Spyri’s works sank into oblivion, Heidi, written at the end of the 19th century, is still considered one of the best-known works of Swiss youth fiction.
Heidi is an orphaned girl raised by her aunt Dete after the early death of her parents. When Dete is offered a well-paid job in the city, she takes Heidi to her grandfather’s house up the mountain. Living a solitary life, he appears to be a man of mystery, arousing the imagination of the villagers, but in fact he is lonely and unhappy. He had retired up the mountain to live a simple life in nature.
Heidi soon earns his genuine affection, and they find in each other’s company mutual solace of family and love, much craved for. Heidi is charmed by unspoilt nature where she feels liberated. Grandfather teaches her about living in nature and encourages her explorations to bring her up as an independent person. Heidi soon befriends her new neighbour, a boy called Peter. One day aunt Dete arrives announced and takes Heidi to the city to be hired as a companion to a sick girl, named Clara.
Heidi dislikes the life of the city, as it abounds in rules and restrictions set by a nanny, Miss Rottenmeier. Clara lives under the watchful eye of a nanny who is over-protective and does not allow her any freedom. Clara’s father behaves as if her daughter was terminally ill and seeks solace in his work, while compensating for his absence by lavishing Clara with expensive gifts. It is his over- protective attitude that has turned Clara into an invalid. She lives in a world of prohibitions which are supposed to protect her, but in fact they are detrimental to her. The free-spirited, rebellious, curious and persistent Heidi is Clara’s direct opposite. Ultimately, it is Heidi’s defiant and free-minded spirit that encourages Clara to start living a full life.
Heidi is a story about freedom that can only be experienced in nature, a story about calm one can find when closely connected to nature, and about rebellion, perseverance and courage that are the driving forces of life-changing patterns. It is a story about love and the power of love, and a testimony that one’s family are people who love, help and care for each other, no matter how many members it consists of. It is a story about two different principles of education; education that encourages a child to become an independent and responsible person, no matter how painful this may be at times, and education that protects children to the extent that makes them mentally and physically disabled.