about the production
All of Czechoslovakia is one undercover apartment. Above truth, above rules, above the law. The whole production as a single gesture. Drama as conceptual art. Acting as a neutral state of being. Everything is familiar, but nothing is comprehensible. Everything is permeated by that elusive Central-East European caste system. Do the illusion of privacy and the labyrinth of responsibility come down to a mere paranoia of pettiness?
The creative team behind Elites want to understand the present, and so undertake to reconstruct processes that have led to the current state of events. The scheme of power is individual lostness. The ruling equation is collective confusion. The individual is supposed to desire the common good, and the community is supposed to satisfy all personal desires. So the good has to be unified and desires have to be tamed. The events on stage are not an image reflected in a mirror, but rather a sociohistorical tinamalgam surface that refracts a real image, that is to say, the audience’s experiences – the personal histories of the spectators. Echo is the real stuff of this production. The story is always ours, except that without an at least apparently fixed point, no echo will be created. At the point when the dreadful pettiness and the cannibalism of banality cannot be denied, the same arguments always come: We only lived the way we could. We only did our jobs the best we could. It is easy to condemn and talk smart in hindsight. After the battle, everyone is a general. And life is precisely that unacknowledged abyss between the many and the one. People like to think that there has to be a We and a They, and that only They are responsible. On the one hand, the claim that only politicians are to be blamed, that people are good, normal, innocent. On the other hand, the idea that every society has the elite it de- serves, that it has generated.
The production creates a world of bastard antiquity. Fixed values are inkblots on Rorschach’s test, each person sees what he wants, everything is affected by individual and communal amorality, which as if competed in a race for their lives. Everyone’s fate consists in grey and timid survival, a desire to not stand out and to be lost in the crowd. Foresight is a constant escape from responsibility, the common justification of unmoved passivity and an unconscious apology for lukewarm certainties. Heroism is swallowed up by sobriety, stripped of all illusions. Without the almighty gods, the will has atrophied and remains a haphazard languishing of the instincts. The majesty of being is a joke that makes no one laugh, but what is worst, no one even cries anymore. Pain and sensitivity are disgraceful wounds that are not treated but cut out. Fate is devoid of amplitudes, monotony is catharsis, to bump along is to fall. But there is still unity in time, space and story. After all, we lived in the same cyclical, warped years between the 1960s and the Velvet Revolution. Soon after the revolution, we realised that the new time is merely an inversion of the old, we always desire the same. In its transparency, the space is an unchanging aquarium, the socialist home that can be mistaken for any other. We enjoy becoming lost in desperate diversity since the revolution, but it might be the same monotony. The story too is the same, and we can never find out whose life we are living: we are simultaneously the oppressed and the oppressors, the abused and the abusers, the sacrifices and the scarifying. We realise nothing if we are not spoken of. But our fates are so mistakable and similar. On borrowed time, in a borrowed flat, we live a borrowed story – this is socialist antiquity. The performance is a starting point, not the goal.
“The play reaches its roughest point in the epilogue. The undercover flat has been taken apart, but it is replaced by a modern TV studio. Our old friends had shaved their beards, changed their jackets, sip on champagne and run the country. In answering the host’s incisive questions, they deny their past, play it down or arrogantly call themselves victims”.
Soňa J. Smolková, Pravda, 6. 4. 2017
“The new play Elites at the Drama of the Slovak National Theatre is,” its authors write, “an attempt to sketch an accurate psychological portrait of those people who, owing to their position, access to information, and last but not least, thanks to their education and knowledge of languages, were the first to find their feet in the new social establishment after the Velvet Revolution.”
Monika Tódová, Denník N, 2. 4. 2017
directed by Jiří Havelka
dramaturgy: Daniel Majling, Miriam Kičiňová
set design: Lucia Škandíková
costumes: Tereza Kopecká
music: Vladislav Šarišský a. h.
cast: Richard Stanke, Dano Heriban, Alexander Bárta, Emil Horváth, Táňa Pauhofová, Emília Vášáryová, Richard Autner, Dávid Uzsák, Vladislav Šarišský Ivan Černý
Jiří Havelka (1980) is a director, author and actor; he graduated in alternative and puppet theatre direction at the DAMU in Prague. Upon completing his studies, he mostly worked with the Prague-based theatre Studio Ypsilon, where he created a series of thematically coherent authorial productions such as Drama in a Nutshell (2005, nominated for the Theatre News Award) and Where the Wind, There the Beach (2008, nominated for the Theatre News Award for the category Alternative Theatre). After he left Studio Ypsilon, he collaborated with Theatre on the Balustrade, with Theatre Na Vinohradech and with HaDivadlo. Recently, he mostly works with the Vosto5 company, who are known for their open authorial productions that build chiefly on improvisation. With Vosto5, he conducts original theatrical invasions of the public space under the name Second City. Havelka is also active in the field of dance theatre and puppet theatre. He established himself on the puppet theatre scene mainly through his wordless, pioneering illusionist film Georges Méliès’ Last Trick, which earned him the Theatre News Award 2013 for the category Puppet Theatre, the Erik Award for the Best Puppet Production of the Year and other awards at foreign festivals. Among his most important awards is the Alfréd Radok Award, which he received in 2007 for the category Talent of the Year. This alternative theatre director’s collaboration with a popular Czech actor and the Drama of the Slovak National Theatre is the first of its kind.
video of the production: yes
script of the production: SK
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