SAD 6/2018

Miroslav Petříček has entitled the last essay in his series on fashion “Adorned in Dreams” and he introduces through it an excerpt from Elizabeth Wilson’s eponymous book. The closing instalment of Karel Haloun’s cycle dedicated to graphic arts in public spaces is entitled “Poetry”. In the section “Fashion of Maniacs” they are accompanied by “coverage from a meeting of imaginative movement in the township of Nogales”, which Oleg de Soto titled “When Horses are on Fire and Dead Women Cannot Be Counted”, and Caferino Juárez’s “Deep MANIAC”, an annotated excerpt from the “Report on Relational Configuration of Entity «MAN» created by a computer. The section “On… African Singing” brings Martin J. Švejda’s comprehensive essay “Antiquity Today” in which he reviews Sophocles’s Electra (directed by Hana Burešová, Theatre at Dlouhá Street), an adaptation of Medea (directed by Jan Nebeský, Jedl Theatre), Marina Carr and Anna Saavedra’s production Phaedra Backwards/Suppliant Maidens (directed by Martina Schlegelová, Letí Theatre) and Moira Buffini’s Welcome to Thebes (directed by Daniel Špinar, National Theatre). Martin Timko (“Children are Endangered the Most by War”) writes in the same section about a production of The Trojan Women staged by J. A. Pitínský in the Municipal Theatre of Zlín. The section “Predators of Letná… and other Beasts” consisting of essays by Vladimír Mikulka (“So This is Your Hiding Place”) and Karel Král (“Vivat Godly Brutes!”) is dedicated to a quartet of productions by French New Circus at this year’s Prague festival Letní Letná. The section “From the Old Town… As Well As the Country” offers portraits of two Slovak theatres: Lucia Lejková (“The Guidebook to Three Seasons of DPM”) introduces the Divadlo Petra Mankoveckého of Bratislava and Matúš Marenčin (“Nothing New in the East”) writes about the Prešov National Theatre based in Košice. In the section “Festivals… with Topographies of Paradise” Barbora Etlíková writes about the Slovak festival KIOSK (“KIOSK Festival: Through Rays of Contact”), in her essay “Edinburgh under the Sign of the French” Dagmar Silbiger-Sliuková chooses from the programme of the Edinburgh International Festival (for example, Waiting for Godot, directed by Gerry Hines, Druid Theatre Company, or Marguerite Duras’s Malady of Death, directed by Katie Mitchell, Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord), Petr Boháč has focused in his essay “Big Sex and Little Death” on the Edinburgh Fringe (from Notorious Strumpet & Dangerous Girl by Jess Love to Famous Puppet Death Scenes by Tim Sutherland and The Old Trout Puppet Workshop & Friends), Tereza Pavelková writes in “Searching for Identity” about two new productions by Kungliga Dramatiska Teatern (SAFE by Falk Richter and Madame Nielsen’s Topographies of Paradise) staged at the Bergmann Festival in Stockholm, and Karel Král chooses for his “Shifting Centre” experimental productions from the Divadlo (Theatre) and Pražské křižovatky (Prague Crossroads) festivals (from Nachloss by the Rimini Protokoll ensemble to Las Ideas by Federico Léon and Julian Tell). The play of this issue is The Elegance of a Molecule by Petr Zelenka which is accompanied by the interview General Scepticism and a Sense of Pride, led with the author by Karel Král (all q. v.). The last short story by Petr Vydra is entitled Readers, and Egon Tobiáš’s comic strip Titanium Stalks continues with its sixth instalment.

The Elegance of a Molecule This play is dedicated to a recently deceased Czech chemist Antonín Holý who dedicated the whole of his life to fundamental research and became world famous particularly for his discovery of molecules by dint of which drugs stopping the AIDS progress could be produced. However, this is not a biographical play in a traditional sense. Zelenka chooses only one part of Holý’s life, surprisingly casting as the “main character” not chemistry or pharmacy but entrepreneurship and business. Western partners are equally important characters as Holý himself, particularly John C. Martin, a chemist and then a long-time director of Gilead Sciences. It was he who at the end of the 1980s decided to risk symbolically and literally the whole of his professional and personal resources and to resume work on the previously abandoned clinic trials of the drug Cidofovir. Although the company Gilead Sciences, founded and led by him together with other chemists and colleagues (and thus exempt from the old ways and rules of global pharmaceutical firms), released the drug on the market in 1996 it generated its first profit only five years later. All of the partners became billionaires including the discoverer of the basic molecule Antonín Holý who shared in the profits on the basis of his licence agreement. But it seems he did not pay attention to these “practical issues” (including vast sums in his bank accounts) and continued to dedicate himself to his great passion – fundamental research, even when he was struck by a fatal degenerative nerve disease. Zelenka surrounds the whole text with interviews between Holý’s widow and a young journalist who is seeking in the overall narration a very “marketable” story. This is just one of Zelenka’s themes: he shows how minor personal decisions taken into one’s head can lead to great things and how a world-class discovery can emerge even when something is not easy to explain (as for instance the principle on which Holý’s molecules work). Never fully appreciated, Antonín Holý thus follows Teremin, who is not only another of Zelenka’s scientists but also another of his “outsider heroes”. In the interview – the seventh between him and Karel Král – Petr Zelenka not only describes the (sometimes humorous) circumstances of the play’s origin, but particularly emphasizes that in times when society is being split and divided by politicians and their disputes he strives through his text “to give people hope and a feeling of pride”, and thus “in the atmosphere of general scepticism this play about things surpassing politics, about success, about happiness and of course about money was being born.”