HOLLYROTH or Robert Roth sings Jan Hollý

Slovak National Theatre – Drama, Bratislava, 2010
Author: Rastislav Ballek
Directed by Rastislav Ballek

about the production

HOLLYROTH as a fusion of names of Ján Hollý and Robert Roth. Hollý, a Slovak catholic priest writer and translator (1785 - 1849), who as the only author wrote in the first standardized Slovak of the Bernolák type, is according to the creators of the production considered Slovak Shakespeare. Roth, an actor of the first Slovak scene, is momentarily the Slovak Hamlet (Slovak National Theatre, 2007). Shakespeare’s English can be compared to Hollý’s Slovak: there is prolonging or shortening of syllables, putting the accent elsewhere than on the beginning of a word, by which rhythm and music occur. The language of both is understandable but one has to be concentrated, and when having a translation or adaption, it is easier. It is only connoisseurs who read Shakespeare in original, and there are also only a few of those reaching for Ján Hollý – the combination of archaic language and neologisms should have a dictionary.

By various allusions to Hamlet the director forces the viewer to think: if Hollý is Slovak Shakespeare and Robert Roth is Hamlet and Ján Hollý at the same time, then the real Slovak Hamlet is Robert Roth as Ján Hollý. Yes, this is our Hamlet. Not the one by Shakespeare, who does not know what to do, who is King’s son and therefore it is cared for him and he does not have to do anything but bothering himself about the issues of human existence while destroying a few human lives. Robert Roth, “the ugly elf Roth”, as the actor himself amusedly cites from one of the comments on one daily’s website which wrote about the premiere of the production of HOLLYROTH, as the Slovak Hamlet is reflected more in Ján Hollý whose great spirit is pulled down to earth by banal material concerns, poverty and illnesses. And loneliness.

The pier protruding to the viewers brings Roth very close, just to touch. His body is in constant excitement; we can see every muscle to quiver. When in the second part he forgets his text, or when the skull falls apart in his hands, it seems like real. As well as the way how he transforms into today’s language the verses the prompter tells him and he does not hear them, or how he leaves his character, winking on the visitors, watches their attention, all of this makes us aware that there is not only Hollý (Svätopluk) Hamlet on the stage, but it is Roth in the first place. Roth who enthrallingly interprets the fates of others.

The production is divided into two parts. The first one is a breath-taking monologue of Ján Hollý about his tragic life, which the creators composed mostly from Hollý’s correspondence, the second one is the heroic epos named Svätopluk. For better understanding and clarification of the text the director used theatrically capturing scenes in which there can be found many layers of meaning and correlations.

The production is the evidence of the acting mastery of Robert Roth and the directing skill of Rastislav Ballek who is not satisfied with first-plan illustrations and puts into the texts new and new meanings. HOLLYROTH is what productions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet should be. This is the answer for so many nominations of the prestigious theatre awards – Dosky 2010.
Dária Fehérová

“Ballek built the script on one actor. He found him in Robert Roth. And Roth met the character perfectly. His acting is modern, he handles the character and text the same way like the props – he demonstrates the character and his conflicts. He does not need psychological or historical arcs; he focuses on the climax of the conflicts. Moreover, he admirably handles Hollý’s words and verses. Despite keeping the original, the text is surprisingly understandable and modern… Roth’s mask develops into the real face, from Pierot’s mask to the clown.”
Oleg Dlouhý, Pravda, 18 September 2009

Slovak National Theatre – Drama, Bratislava, 2010
Author: Rastislav Ballek
Directed byRastislav Ballek


script & direction: Rastislav Ballek
cast: Robert Roth
author of the text: freely on the motives of book of poetry by Vojtech Mihálik Reverend Man from Madunice
music: Martin Ožvold
set design and costumes: Jozef Ciller


Rastislav Ballek (1971) graduated in theatre directing at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Since his university years his work has been based mainly on Slovak classical texts which he has been decanonizing through irony and parody. He co-operated with various Slovak theatres: 1999 – 2001 the in-house director of the SNP Theatre in Martin; 2002 – 2008 a director and artistic director of the Town Theatre in Žilina; he also co-operated with the Slovak National Theatre, Alexander Dukhnovich Theatre in Prešov, Aréna Theatre in Bratislava as well as with theatres in Brno and Prague in the Czech Republic. His first appearance at the Divadelná Nitra Festival was during his university studying with the production called Departure from Bratislava by Mikuláš Dohnány, which received the prize at the Setkání/ Encounter ´96 - festival of theatre schools. In 1997 he brought to Nitra the production entitled Pustokvet made for the Martin Slovak Chamber Theatre and in 1998 he took part with the Atoms of God which was awarded the BOARDS Award as Discovery of Season. Slovak critics acknowledged him also in 2005 when his production called Tiso (based on his own script), made at the Aréna Theatre, won BOARDS Awards in several categories, including Discovery of Season.


Materials available

Script of the production: SK, EN

If you are interested in these materials, write to archivy@nitrafest.sk