about the production
The entry of Slovakia in the European Union was accompanied here with a public discourse about branding of Slovakia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with a group of culture experts drafted a study in which they attempted to redefine Slovakia and the Slovaks in the most positive manner. The study addressed the issues of identity, nation and what is characteristic for us (such as authenticity, diversity, vitality, ingenuity, hospitality...).
In the past season the repertoire of the Theatre Astorka Korzo ´90 has come up unexpectedly with an original production by Michal Vajdička Empty Hole, in which the authors along with culture experts address this particular theme. Yet the play presents the image of Slovakia altogether differently to that what we learn of in the aforementioned study. It is quite the opposite. Michal Vajdička drew from actual data, public opinion polls and census, worked with a number of articles and blogs which he arranged in individual thematic areas: unemployment, educational attainment, situation in health care, minimum monthly wage on the edge of poverty line, the Roma issue, the challenge of corruption and nepotism, openness to migrants and reception of foreigners, and the attitude to migration or the EU, etc.
Formally, the piece is very simple and already conventional means to enliven documentary statistics. The director openly acknowledges being inspired by the Hungarian director Árpád Schilling who is well known across European theatre, and by his production BLACKland (featuring at Divadelná Nitra in 2005).
Black Hole doesn’t offer anything new in terms of form. Yet its testimony and the intention by the artists to offer, if uncomplimentary, but certainly an accurate portrait of ourselves is an attempt to openly define the above phenomena in our society. Are we at all able to look at ourselves, admit our shortcomings, and accept criticism? Even though no statistics can be perfectly accurate, they are close to reality. With wit and a degree of mockery Michal Vajdička gets under the skin of the image of the gracious, friendly, open Slovak nation.
Eighteen bitter-sweet etudes are acted out by the company of Korzo´90 in an exaggerated manner often with self-mockery, sometimes with the help of mute grotesque. The opening title of each act (often statistics) is either upheld by the acting and actors vividly portray the situation, or amplifies the paradox through parody. The production also contains some recent and still open political cases, such as the Gorilla affair, that is Slovak scandal about corruption in politics, that started with a leak of classified document of the Slovak Information Service in December 2011. The authors directly quote interviews recorded in the Gorilla file, thus capturing the scam by Slovak politicians on the electorate, the heinous robbery of public funds and unpunished tax fraud.
The production Empty Hole can be identified as political for its currency and striking power to touch upon the present-day socio-political developments. Naturally, this type of productions is time-sensitive: what applied three months ago is different today. It is indeed the simple form that the authors reached for that allows them to adapt the texts to what currently resonates in Slovak society, politics and life.
Empty Hole is an ironic and critical a portrait of what we are like. When we can laugh at ourselves, there is hope that we might change for the better. Let’s hope.
“To laugh at one’s own mistakes and lapses is reportedly liberating. Self-mockery is no doubt a sign of critical distance and personal maturity, an ability to look upon and inside ourselves and to acquire the ability to learn from our own mistakes.”
Zuzana Bakošová-Hlavenková, Theatre Monitoring in Slovakia
“The presentation of Empty Hole in the Astorka Theatre has to be viewed positively. It is not merely a matter of refreshing the repertoire of the theatre that marks a major anniversary. The plainly stated civic and political opinion is still very rare in Slovak theatre. Moreover, the liberating laughter has been the most powerful weapon throughout the 25 years of Astorka. This time it didn’t fail either.”
Soňa Smolková: Slovakia, the nonsense beneath the Tatras, kød 6/ 9, pp 16–19
directed by Michal Vajdička
dramaturgy: Andrea Domeová
costumes: Katarína Hollá
set design: Pavol Andraško
music: Marián Čekovský
drums played by Martin Valihora
cast: Zuzana Kronerová, Anna Šišková, Zuzana Konečná, Rebeka Poláková Boris Farkaš, Ady Hajdu, Marián Labuda ml., Marián Miezga, Juraj Kemka, Róbert Jakab, Lukáš Latinák, Tomáš Mrekaj
Michal Vajdička (1976) studied theatre directing at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. He is artistic director at Dejvice Theatre in Prague and works with renowned Slovak and Czech troupes. He directed a range of successful productions: The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The State Theatre Košice (DN 2005); Portia Coughlan, The Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra (DN 2007, nominated for Dosky award in the category Production of the Year, Viewers’ award the New Drama Festival and the Literary Fund Award for Best director); Everything for the Nation, The Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra (DN 2008, nominated for the Dosky award in the category Production of the Year, the Literary Fund Award for Best director and the Alfréd Radok Award for the Greatest experience of foreign theatre), The Kindly Ones, The Slovak National Theatre (DN 2014, 2014 Dosky Award in categories Best Production and Best Director). A Blockage in the System by Irvine Welsh in the Dejvice Theatre in Prague received the 2012 Alfred Radok Award as the Production of the Year.
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