SAD 3/2016

Summary 3/2016


The next instalment in the cycle “The End of Post-Modernism” is called “The Digital Change of Post-Modernism” and it includes an annotated excerpt from a work by Robert Samuels entitled “Auto-Modernity after Post-Modernism: Autonomy and Automation in Culture, Technology and Education”. The section continues with essays by Ralf Burger (“The Secret Life of Machines”) and Basit Alvi (“Com/p/unism”) and ends with Jakub Škorpil’s essay “A Substance that Dreams Are Made of…” reviewing two recent productions by the Handa Gote Research & Development ensemble: Erben: Dreams and Eleusis (q.v.). In the section “Young… National Blood” Josef Rubeš’ essay “The Fellowship of New Blood” is about the dramatic art of the new generation of actors at the National Theatre (q.v.). The section “Half a Dozen… Mikulášeks” includes an analytical portrait of director Jan Mikulášek by Barbora Elíková (“From Images to Harmony”) and a review of his latest production in a traditional presentation prepared in partnership with literary manager Dora Viceníková (Mikulka: “Obsession from Nowhere to Nowhere”). The section “ŠTVANICE… and Geissler’s Tiger Letí” is dedicated to one of Prague’s new alternative venues – VILA Štvanice – and it offers an interview with a local director Ivo Kristián Kubák (“On the Road to VILA”), an essay mapping out the dramaturgy of the ensembles that have made Vila their home or are in residence there (Vondráková: “Life on an Island Called Štvanice”), and reviews of topical productions by the Letí theatre dedicated to Olga Havlová (Mikulka: “You Can’t Just Learn How to Be the /First/ Lady”) and an adaptation of Sorokin’s Day of the Oprichnik presented by the Tygr v tísni (Tiger in Straits) ensemble (Škorpil: “Speak Elaborately”). In the section “Circus… from Ea Eo to Aereo” Vladimír Mikulka writes about the Cirkopolis festival (“Merrily to Cirkopolis”) and Karel Král about several cirque nouveau productions (“Genius – Idiots”). The section “Opera… Komische an der Wien” includes reviews of Berlin productions by Barrie Kosky (Moses und Aron, Die Zauberflöte, The Tales of Hoffmann, Yevgeny Onegin, The Fiery Angel – Šaldová: “A Homosexual Jewish Kangaroo in Berlin”) and of two productions from Theater an der Wien (Otello, Agrippina – Mojžišová: “Musulman and Manager”). In the section “In England… Even Shakespeare’s Daughter” Eva Daníčková writes on Penelope Skinner’s Linda (“One Woman after Another”), Hana Pavelková on Simon Stephens’s Herons (“Can Children Be Children Anymore?”) and Dana Silbiger-Sliuková on A Long Day’s Journey into Night with Jeremy Irons directed by Richard Eyre, and on Herbal Bed by Peter Whelan (“Family Secrets”). An interview with the Norwegian playwright Fredrik Brattberg (“Where There Are No Doubts…”) introduces a Czech translation of his play The Returning. “Comedy Mix” presents the V. A. D. amateur theatre from Kladno and a further instalment of the comic strip cycle “Theatre Sadism Lessons” by S.d.Ch. is entitled TW Cen MT Condensed Extra Bold.

A Substance that Dreams Are Made of… In their penultimate production to date entitled Erben: Dreams the Handa Gote Research & Development association continues on a journey started with their preceding production Mutus Liber. However, instead of alchemical instructions from the late seventeenth century they have now taken as their pattern notes on dreams by the romantic poet Karel Jaromír Erben. However, their treatment of these is similarly free, developing them even when the basis of a longish scene may be as little as two of the poet’s words. Handa Gote are faithful to their traditional low-tech and DIY poetics and here this means framing the production in traditional country folk theatre with no lack of masks, homemade musical instruments etc. The actors’ interpretations are also adjusted to this and are deliberately unskilful, ungainly and assiduously amateur. The result is a distinctly surreal production (which is in fact a quality trademark of Handa Gote) through the simple means of evoking a dream-like mood in which anything can happen and nothing seems to make sense. A clear message and main idea are, on the other hand, at the heart of Handa Gote’s latest production – Eleusis. This is a reconstruction of the myth of Persephone but in a trivialized form, through contemporary, largely Internet media. The authors themselves characterize Eleusis as: “A Post-Internet Impro Opera about the impossibility of a great story in a world where everything is both Truth and Lie at one and the same time. The cyclical time of a myth thrust into the instant time of our world.” And this time it does not seem to be an exaggeration. While other Handa Gote productions have had an essential element of secrecy and ungraspable situations that offer many interpretations, this is actually an illustration of a single thesis. This said, it certainly does not mean that in Eleusis Handa Gote “refute themselves”, and the production still offers great doses of playfulness, as for instance in montages of motifs familiar from computer screens (including the Blue Screen of Death, Lolcats etc.) or musical genres (from pop to disco and metal to electro-noise). However, the absence of open uncertainty means that the production seems to slowly dissipate and it fails to be constantly gripping.

The Fellowship of New Blood After thirteen years Michal Dočekal was replaced as Director of the National Theatre Drama Company by Daniel Špinar. He had already been appointed a permanent director of the drama ensemble a year earlier and applied for the role of director with the project entitled “New Blood (The National Theatre Drama Company in the 21st Century)” where he focused on actors as the centre of a stage production and insisted on the need to bring new blood into the National Theatre Drama Company. This tendency soon showed itself in the departure of some actors and the arrival of newcomers and in more active collaboration with company members who are of the same generation as Špinar or have worked with him in the past, such as Patrik Děrgel, Lucie Polišenská and Pavlína Štorková, who have joined the drama company. Of those actors who were already employed in the National Theatre, Magdaléna Borová and Jana Pidrmanová have got more prominent roles in the course of Špinar’s first season as director. Špinar has also brought in Štěpán Pácl as a permanent dramatic director in the National Theatre Drama Company and worked with him in shaping the first season of “new blood”. As permanent dramatic director Špinar has already staged two successful productions of Othello and Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett, which received notable reviews for the actors’ performances. In the 2015/2016 season Špinar and Pácl directed The Blue Bird, Manon Lescaut and Lenka Lagronová’s new play Like a Razor (Němcová). Company members who can be ranked in the sphere of Špinar’s “new blood” by and large offer spirited performances and they are not afraid to display their feelings. They reject the more traditional underacting of the older generation and demonstrate and even emphasize emotions. This was most explicit in Špinar’s operatic production of the Manon Lescaut by the Czech poet from between the wars Vítězslav Nezval. In two productions (Protection by Anja Hilling and Love and Information by Caryl Churchill) the ensemble also experimented with contemporary technologies and non-traditional dramatic texts.