The Rats

Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra, 2014
Author: Gerhart Hauptmann
Directed by Roman Polák

about the production

The theatre of today could be dominated by strong human stories, full of typical contradictions. Such is the story of one house and the unfulfilled desire to be a mother.

In one place there are living several families – some more rich, some more poor, but also those which are on the edge of poverty. They don’t want much from life. They don’t need millions to be happy; all they need is a functional family, good marriage and children. But unfortunately, they don’t even have that. Mrs. John – the main character as well as the motif of the story – is a woman in her thirties. She is the soul of this house. Her husband travels for work and she spends most of the year in a depressing solitude. She craves for a child. The years go by, and it looks like she will have nobody to live for, to love, to beworried about, to make sacrifices for. All of a sudden, destiny shows her more mercy – she has the opportunity to adopt a child of a young woman who can’t take care of him. Finally, John has somebody to live for, to make sacrifices for, to plan the future for. However, her happiness doesn’t last long. After a few days, the real mother shows up and wants to take her child back. A fight for happiness begins.

The production is built upon the detailed dramatic portrayals of the heroes of the story who struggle not just with fate but mainly with their own demons. Besides being a deeply human story about motherhood, Hauptmanns play is also a strong social drama. The inhabitants of the apartment building are people on the edge of interest; their relationships and lives are subject to moral, social as well as economic decay. From this ferment in which the remainders of the old life are rotting, a hundred percent extremism is distilled which finally sweeps them all away like a windstorm.

The direction is based in all expressive aspects upon minimalism and precision of building the many-layered story of the house – theatre above which the dirty laundry of our world is hanging like a curse. The world which is loosing a firm ground under its feet. The human dirt, the compulsions and obsessions, perverted desires and unfulfilled ideas about happiness are pouring as if from a cesspit. Some kind of strange sadness connects the heroes and the time-frame of the story. The dramatic focus of all acting performances, the elaborate work with the scenic space, and the directing consistency of building the whole make this production an appealing exclamation mark referring to the present days. The actions of the individual characters, their cries and whispers are piling and finally creating the closing apocalyptic forte of the whole production.

There are many theatre stories which have A HOUSE as their major character. It is like that in the Rats, too. This house is rather dark, with only an occasional glimpse of a sun ray. Full of feverish human behaviour, but also touched by the age which has in it a smile of a suspected devil. The characters are pulled into a whirlwind which swallows them at last, sooner or later. But the historical perspective tells us that the whirlwind will soon turn into a cataclysm. The rats are climbing out of the holes and bring us the news about the human predestination, or perhaps, about the impossibility to learn from our mistakes…?
Svetozár Sprušanský

 “The equilibrium of all components has even led to that which is always precious – especially with serious subjects. After the performance is over, you don´t feel hopelessness or disgust, but you are somehow more sensitive, and most of all you pay homage to the authors and of course, the actors.”
Dagmar Inštitorisová,

“In Slovakia, there are almost no productions of Hauptmann’s plays, perhaps also because during Nazism this German author, who was awarded the Nobel Prize, was not politically vulnerable but also not persecuted. Also that is the reason why the staging of The Rats is such a precious, almost a break through act.

With many monologue productions which overwhelm the repertoire of our theatres, a well built play has almost exclusive effect. Behind the logical structure of the production, we can also feel Daniel Majling, dramatic advisor who is on a long-term basis affined with director Polák. Under his unstrained conduct it was proven what a strong potential slumbers in the Nitra dramaturgic ensemble.”
Zuzana Uličianska, SME

“The premiere of the play should be considered a strange concurrence of circumstances, where the beginnings of extremism are crystallized, and at the same time we have to watch the actual extremism form as well as cruel manifestations in the streets of Nitra. In Germany, there was a similar situation after the 1st world war, later culminating in the practices of Nazism. It is for sure, as R. Polák said in an interview, that “if the society is unbalanced, the tension grows,” which even we are witnessing these days, after all. Also for this reason, the production of Hauptmann´s Rats is very up to date.”
Marta Žilková, Radio DEVÍN



directed by: Roman Polák
translation: Viera Juríčková
dramaturgy: Daniel Majling
music selection: Lucia Chuťková
costumes: Peter Čanecký
set design:  Pavel Borák
characters and cast: Mrs. John: Kristína Turjanová, John: Martin Nahálka, Bruno: Juraj Ďuriš, Hassenreuter: Ivan Vojtek, Mrs. Hassenreuter: Eva Pavlíková, Walburga: Alena Pajtinková, Erich Spitta: Roman Poláčik, priest Spitta: Ján Greššo, Mrs. Knobbe: Daniela Kuffelová, Quaquaro: Peter Oszlík, Schierke: Branislav Matuščin, Mrs. Rutterbusch: Renáta Ryníková, Pawlina: Judit Bárdos, Mrs. Kielback: Gabriela Dolná, Selma: Eva Cibulková / Magdaléna Pacovská


Roman Polák (1957) – at the present, he is the director of the Drama of the Slovak National Theatre; in the past he collaborated with the State Theatre Košice and the Slovak Chamber Theatre, Martin, later also with the national theatres in Bratislava, Prague and Brno, and with Astorka – Korzo 90´ in Bratislava. The productions of Roman Polák have reached far beyond Slovakian theatre with their meaning. The most successful productions from Martin, La Dispute by Pierre de Marivaux and Brecht’s Baal (1989), have represented Czech and Slovak theatre at the international festivals all over Europe – the most important being the guest stay at the International Festival in Edinburgh. La Dispute even won the prestigious award of the critics of The Guardian daily. Roman Polák has created more than hundred dramatic as well as opera productions, the exceptionally successful being: a dramatization of The Trial by Kafka (Polák – Porubjak, 1992); Cyrano of Bergerac by Rostand, L+S Studio, 1993; the Russian tetralogy at Astorka Korzo ´90: A. P. Chekhov: Uncle Váňa (1995), N. Ostrovsky: The Forrest (1997), F. M. Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment, The Murder with an Axe in St Petersburg (1999), later Play Gorky – Polák´s adaptation of Summer Guests (2004). His most important awards: Ján Jamnický Award; repeatedly the reward of the Literary Fund; multiple awards DOSKY – best production and best direction (Gogol: Scenes from the House of Bessemenovs / The Smug Citizens – 1998, Ostrovsky: The Forrest – 1997, Chekhov: Ivanov – 2006, Tolstoy: Anna Karenina – 2009, Molière: Mizantrop – 2010).

Materials available

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Script of the production: EN

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