Slovak productions at Divadelná Nitra to speak of the ruling caste as well as a mythical thug

25.08.2017 06:08

The 26th annual edition of International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra will be held from 22 to 26 September 2017. Slovak theatre makers will approach the Festival audiences with the themes of female soldiers on the front line, of war and peace; Dostoyevsky’s anti-heroes and the meaning of life; of an honest thug, and law and justice; of the ruling caste, and democracy and the truth; as well as of miracles and faith. 

The main programme features five Slovak productions selected by the Festival curators of the Slovak section – the dramaturge of the Thália Theatre in Košice Miklós Forgács and his colleague, the theatre director József Czajlik. Throughout the year, the curators enjoyed 60 productions premièred during the current theatre season in Bratislava, Trnava, Komárno, Nitra, Bátovce, Žilina, Martin, Zvolen, Banská Bystrica, as well as in Prešov and Košice.

The final selection includes ELITES by The Slovak National Theatre Drama Company, WAR’S UNWOMANLY FACE by The Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin, POSSESSED by The Alexander Duchnovič Theatre in Prešov, JÁNOŠÍK by the host – The Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra, and MIRACLES, a joint production of the Pôtoň Theatre, the Debris Company, Honey and Dust, and Sláva Daubnerová.

In their deliberation, the curators took into account the leitmotif of the current Festival edition#FUNDAMENTALS that aims to highlight the fundamental values of man and society.

“Can we have, coexisting side-by-side, freedom and order, family and individualism, faith and pragmatism, self-fulfilment and social responsibility, peace and war, bliss and curiosity, creativity and contemplation, steadiness and quest, humanity and kin, finity and eternity, question and answer, silence and word, idea and image, reality and fiction? This is precisely what each production speaks of,” explains Miklós Forgács. He adds: “Every production is provocatively personal and painfully contemporary. Each forces members of the audience to fight it, none allows them to merely view it innocently and carelessly. Spectators have to create their own parallel film, to use the fragments to put together their own version and find the truth through the cracks.” Forgács goes on to point out that the selection criterion was for a production not to be merely good, but also imperative, not merely standing out, but also inimitable, not just communicative, but also tidal; and, last but not least, not merely innovative, but also accurate.

The Slovak Chamber Theatre from Martin will come to the Nitra Festival stage with their winning production of the 2017 New Drama festival WAR’S UNWOMANY FACE. It is a dramatisation of the novel by the 2015 Nobel laureate, the Belarussian writer Svetlana Alexievich. It brings uncensored oral history – authentic testimonies by women who, as soldiers, fought on front line during the Second World War. Alexievich engaged in long conversations with them. Yet she wasn’t as interested in how many people they killed, but what they felt at the point of killing. The unique monograph was adapted by the director Marián Pecko who, after years, made a comeback to the Martin theatre. He cast in the production all actresses currently available in the Martin company.

“World War II ended long ago. Eye witnesses keep on passing away. The memory keeps on disappearing, as do personal experiences, What we have at hand is a shocking testimony in the book by Svetlana Alexievich. We speak of it for the sake of memory, in order to realise that all what happened throughout the history, more or less distant, isn’t mere literature, but life of humans,” explains Pecko.

This is a poignant account of women on the quest for their own value, for the meaning of their sacrifice, the meaning of women’s life in the world at war, and the reason why official doctrines remain silent about “their” war. It all comes to life on stage as presented by the finest stars of the Martin drama company.

The Alexander Duchnovič Theatre from Prešov is arriving to Nitra with the drama POSSESSED. Dostoyevsky’s novel Demons (Posessed by the Devil),that served as the master for the production, offered a prophecy of the horrors of Russian revolutions and the Stalinist era. The spectators become witness to the revolt of the youth from the clandestine club of anarchists who unleash in a small provincial imperial town bloody unrest while attempting to carry out a takeover. The director Braňo Mazúch has mastered a poignant stage analysis of the ever-live mechanisms of violent struggle for régime change that is borne out of frustration of an entire generation.

“Various crises, political instability and fear aid those who reach for simple, yet often destructive solutions. Let’s hope that Dostoyevsky’s visions no longer reach as far as us and our times, or that they don’t predict our own near future,” say the makers of the production.

The output of the Slovak repertory theatres won’t be missing in Nitra this year either. It will be represented by the latest piece from The Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra. Festival audiences will have an opportunity to see the production JÁNOŠÍK by the drama visionary Rastislav Ballek. The director reached for a major drama in verse by the writer Mária Rázusová-Martákováwho transferred the story of thugs from folk legend to a historical play with wide intellectual grasp. The stage interpretation of the text presents this notorious theme by using the instruments of an utterly modern theatre. It includes impressive choreographies inspired by folk dances, as well as a sizeable choir delivering poignant music composed for the production. Ballek’s staging awards the naïve story a philosophical dimension; kitsch mixes with conceptualism, trash with metaphysics, appellative and emotional acting with performance.The contemporary take on the popular myth presents the spectators with current issues contained within the play.

The most remarkable Slovak independent theatre companies, the Pôtoň Theatre, Debris Company, Honey and Dust, and Sláva Daubnerová will present a unique multi-genre site-specific pieceMIRACLES. The project will be staged in the unconventional setting within the former royal town of Bátovce – at the Lipovina water dam, on the premises of an elementary school, in the Protestant church, and in the garden of the Pôtoň Theatre. The performance will take the spectators on a 3-kilometre long journey, to four different sites to give them a chance to learn four answers to what is a miracle.

“We believe that the society has come close to apocalypse. This isn’t quite the place to account for all grounds that led us to the belief. What is fundamental to us, is the loss of empathy and humanity, the crisis of faith, demolition of the old without a vision for the new world. It seems that no stone remains unturned. All that we are left with is to rely on our intuition and wisdom.  We can still hope for a miracle. Perhaps it isn’t as little, to believe in miracle,” admit the project authors, Iveta Ditte Jurčová and Michal Ditte from the Pôtoň Theatre.

The 26th edition of Divadelná Nitra will close with ELITES, one of the major productions of the current season at The Slovak National Theatre. The foremost Czech playwright and director Jiří Havelka, laurate of the Alfréd Radok Prize, was commissioned by the Slovak National Theatre to write the satirical–sardonic piece subtitled A Thriller with Political Background. The production is a contemplation about the emergence of the caste of the mighty who continue to rule Slovakia today.  It takes us back to the end of Communism, to Party sessions engaged in an open talk of the need for change. Meanwhile, new cadres await their moment in foreign trade companies and in the offices of the state police. They are pragmatic, fluent in foreign languages, and – unlike their compatriots – they understand market economy, have contacts to foreign investors and the idea of competitiveness of local businesses. Twenty-five years on, they rule and de facto own Slovakia.

The authors of the production argue that they wanted to offer a genuine psychological portrait of those who, during the Velvet Revolution, managed to use their status, access to information, as well as their education and fluency in foreign languages to be the first to navigate the new social landscape. The performance features the finest stars of the Slovak National Theatrewho come from a range of acting generations.

Over the five Festival days, the main programme will present theatres from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, the United States, Slovenia, and Slovakia.

Tickets are already on sale at www.predpredaj.skunder the section Divadlo (Theatre). The Box Office at The Andrej Bagar Theatre is open from 21 August Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 PM (entrance through the square Svätoplukovo námestie).

The Festival continues to offer students and the elderly tickets at discounted rates. Disabled badge holders shall enjoy free entry. Parents are welcome to take their offspring aged up to 3 to the theatre for free. Theatre professionals and journalists are encouraged to use the Profi Tickets category when making their booking.

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