Komorní scéna Aréna, Ostrava, Czech Republic, 2016
Author: Tomaš Vůjtek
Directed by: Ivan Krejčí
about the production
“Had we had fifty Eichmanns, we would have been bound to win the war.”
That is the leitmotif of the production of The Hearing by the contemporary Czech playwright Tomáš Vůjtek. As one of the few contemporary Czech (or Slovak) plays The Hearing addresses the Holocaust theme. The director Ivan Krejčí has given it a theatre form to create an exceptionally pressing report about the never-ending faces if evil.
The Hearing that has been clad in Czech critics’ awards in 2015 is among the very best there is in Czech drama today. That is why this piece, modest in design, yet crucial in theme, by the Chamber Theatre Aréna in Ostrava cannot be missing at the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra. For not only it speaks of the history of the Holocaust, but it also addresses the now burning theme of the hatred of the ´Other´, xenophobia and racism that, alas, haven’t ended with the Second Word War.
The Nazi leader, one of the main organisers of the Holocaust, the war criminal Adolf Eichmann is at the centre of the play. The remarkable performance of the role by Marek Cisovský earned the actor the 2015 Critics’ Award for the Best Actor in 2015. The audience enter a kind of fictitious space of confession where Eichmann confesses to them (or God?) his version of the key moments from his life and thus the history of the Holocaust. It is the space of cowardly defence, denial of guilt and futile waiting for absolution.
Eichmann’s confession is interrupted by entries of other characters that engage in dialogue with him, developing the themes of his story from their perspective and engaging in conflict with him. The play thus flows as a cascade assembled from monologues and dramatic dialogues. The main arch is created by a fictional dialogue between Eichmann and Hans Frank (the governor of the occupied Poland during WWII) which not only reveals the different facets of Nazi brutality, but especially the cowardice and methods used by the Nazi leaders (though not only them) to justify or deny their crimes. On the one hand the servile, bureaucratically pedantic allegiance to the party and Hitler, on the other hand Hans Frank who wanted, by the annihilation of Jews, to resurrect the culture and civilizational standards. The authors used this fundamental conflict to splendidly capture in a theatre form the ´banality of evil´, a term coined after the trial of Eichmann in 1963 by Hannah Arendt in reference to the horrific crimes. The dialogue is extended to other characters, such as a rabbi, captives in the Russian gulag, a married couple, ordinary Nazis or Vlastička, that epitomises the characteristic pettiness of the majority population in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and, equally, in the Slovak State – its guilt and share on the Holocaust doesn’t remain omitted by the author. For Eichmann was a colleague and friend of the Nazi named Dieter Wisliceny who served, inter alia, as the advisor of the solution of the Jewish issue in Slovakia.
Tomáš Vůjtek is particularly interested in what is universal about Holocaust history, i.e. the different faces of human evil that cannot be eradicated. Yet The Hearing is also sombre for it brings information about the progress of the Holocaust. It reminds us of the very first transport dispatched on 17 October 1939 from Ostrava to eastern Poland as part of the expulsion of Jews from Central Europe, i.e. prior to the “final solution of the Jewish issue.” It was Eichmann to directly command the transport.
Tomáš Vůjtek has written a play that maps out one of the faces of totalitarianism and its evil. It is included in a trilogy, the first part of which portrays the totalitarian Communist Czechoslovakia. The third part will explore the expulsion of Germans. The minimalist direction by Ivan Krejčí focuses particularly on precise acting and sounding of the information-studded texts with a few moments emotionally charged by music. The dramatic finale reminds us that we all carry within a piece of evil and we keep closing our eyes to its existence. Paraphrasing the final words in Vůjtek’s play: “It goes on and even the millions of deaths won’t change it.”
“The actor along with the entire production present, in the most captivating manner, the process of transformation – consequential, inconspicuous, step-by-step, actually “always because of someone else’s decision” – of Eichmann’s ´good intention´ (the root of which, however, is the dreadful racial idea and inability to critically distance oneself from authority, or, if you wish, to give in to the ´order´) into the most horrendous industrially produced evil in history of which he is de facto executive director; the entire ´depersonalised´, mechanical process of transformation of good to evil.”
Vladimír Just, 13 April 2015, Divadelní noviny
“The theme of The Hearing seems so insane that the director Ivan Krejčí decided to present it in a most ascetic form. The situations are often anti-dramatic, resembling radio play where the main emphasis is placed on word: Eichmann’s ´antithetical´ monologue and the agreement on the part of history. (…) The actor Marek Cisovský delivers evocative study of bureaucratic evil. He is so immersed in the theme that he acquires authentic Eichmann mimicry. With sparse, selective and conceited gestures with the characteristic spectacles in the thick frame, the chilling smile didn’t leave Cisovský’s face long after the final applause following the Saturday première.”
Martin Jiroušek, 2 March 2015, Ostravan.cz
directed by Ivan Krejčí
dramaturgy: Tomáš Vůjtek
set design: Milan David
costumes: Marta Roszkopfová
music: Nikos Engonidis
characters and část: Eichmann: Marek Cisovský, Vlastička: Alena Sasínová-Polarczyk, The First Colleague: Petr Panzenberger, The Second Colleague: Šimon Krupa, Rabbi: Vladislav Georgiev, Miss: Tereza Cisovská, Husband: Ondřej Malý, Hans Frank: Albert Čuba, Invincible: Josef Kaluža, Father: Pavel Cisovský
Ivan Krejčí (1966), artistic manager and director; worked as journalist in the regional television in Pilsen. Having just graduate in directing he worked at the Slovácko Theatre in Uherské Hradiště in the 1997/1998 season. From 1999 to 2001 he was artistic director at the City Theatre in Karlovy Vary. Since 2005 he is artistic manager and director at the Chamber Theatre Aréna in Ostrava which received the Alfréd Radok Award, thus becoming the 2013 Theatre of the Year. Since 2009 Ivan Krejčí is member of the Czech Radio and Television Broadcasting Council, serving as its President since 2014. The successful production of Anna Bolena by Donizetti in June 2013 in the Moravian–Silesian National Theatre in Ostrava marked his debut as opera director. It was in the same theatre that he also prepared the opera Andrea Chénier by Umberto Giordano.
Video of the production: yes
Script of the production: SK
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