Slovak Chamber Theatre Martin, 2017
Author: Svetlana Alexievich
Directed by Marián Pecko
about the production
To speak. To end the silence. When the only possibilities are either too close or too far. The ideal distance is long forgotten. The ideal distance from oneself, from another, from arms of war, from the enemy, from danger, from pain, from death. The human being is the purpose, the body a burden, gender a luxury. Human movement is the trajectory of a shot. Femininity is outside the strategic plan. War is no metaphor. The face is no uniform.
Belarussian writer with Ukrainian roots and with strong ties to Russian culture Svetlana Alexievich, who has done nothing else throughout her life but “attentively listened to” and investigated the creature by the name of ‘homo sovieticus’, thought up a genre of polyphonic documentary novel. Banská Bystrica-based creative tandem Iveta Škripková – Marián Pecko, united by a strong inclination towards feminism and current as well as timeless socio-political issues, thought up Svetlana Alexievich. The Theatre in Martin, which never hesitated to take risks, make the burning issue into a form and to immerse itself in content that does not lend itself to a clear-cut theatrical solution, thought up Škripková and Pecko at a creative picnic with Alexievich. This is how polyphonic documentary theatre was born in Slovakia. Exported fates with a high degree of local accuracy.
Svetlana Alexievich’s heroines have it even more difficult with their identities. After all, it is their womanhood that is at stake. Before the war, this feminine identity was innocent, certain, unambiguous: I am a woman, all that I do, feel and want, I act out, experience and gain as a woman. This determinacy of gender is an undisputable basis of identity. To be a soldier in the Second World War, however, is at such fundamental odds with gender stereotypes, defies social expectations to such a degree, so radically rewrites gender boundaries, that this identity was left fatally wounded upon return. In war, it is not natural to be a woman. The soldier is a unisex being, a master in suppressing his private desires, ideally, without an individual will – but the starting point of this unisex state is manliness, masculine combativeness, testosterone and adrenaline.
In war, womanliness needed to be concealed, it was confusing and unnecessary; after the war, it was in constant need of proof that, despite her sinful fall during the war, the soldier could be a good, real, authentic woman. Silence, deception, repression and forgetfulness became the chief strategies of these questionable beings. Affecting the course of events, fighting on the frontline, killing, surviving, becoming an unfeeling killing machine was simply something that did not belong with the natural life course of a good woman, of being married, bearing children, caring for the household and not meddling in the affairs of men. If you do not accept the men’s rules, you are disobedient and you will die – if you accept the men’s rules, you are amoral, because a woman cannot behave that way. In the end, a sort of consensus was reached in society: let us pretend as though nothing happened. And so these women never came to terms with their trauma and carried their memories as a disgusting boil, as a shameful sign. They were able to survive in extreme situations and so had to desensitise a part of themselves during an age of moderation. They lost once again in the gender war between men and women, but society forced them to experience their loss as a victory and a return to normalcy. They were not spared of frustration on the battlefield and not during peace. As if they were everywhere only a mistake.
The form of the production corresponds to the polyphony of the original epic. The individual voices and stories refract each other, blend thematically; sometimes, the ego dissipates and the testimonies mesh into a pulsating collective confession. Excessive emotions and hyperbolic apathy – all this has to fit into geometrically Puritan scenes and into the breath-taking simplicity and, of course, complexity of the actors’ performances.
“… it is a production with a distinctive social message. War´s Unwomanly Face in Martin is one generation’s confession, but also a warning for those still to come. History should not repeat itself. The fates of these women are one argument why.”
Karol Mišovic, Pravda, 18. 1. 2017
“Personal engagement and human authenticity can be felt in the women’s performances. They do not embody characters, but rather hover on the edge of empathising with another woman and making use of their own temperament, as though they asked themselves – who would I be, what would I be like, how would I be- have in this woman’s position? (…) Despite the suggestive performances, the production can hardly convey the same emotions as a readthrough of a book. Quite naturally – the lived is transformed into the performed, truthfully perhaps, but also from a distance of a different life experience.”
Martina Mašlárová, kød, March 2017
directed by Marián Pecko
translation: Ondrej Marušiak, Marek Chovanec, Nadežda Lindovská
dramatisation: Iveta Horváthová
dramaturgy: Monika Michnová
set design: Pavol Andraško
costumes: Eva Farkašová
music: Róbert Mankovecký
movement co-operation: Stanislava Vlčeková
characters and cast: Jana O: Jana Oľhová, Eva: Eva Gašparová, Ľuba: Ľubomíra Krkošková, Lucia: Lucia Jašková, Naďa: Nadežda Vladařová, Zuzana: Zuzana Rohoňová, Jana K: Jana Kovalčiková, Man 1: Ján Kožuch, Man 2: Daniel Žulčák
Marián Pecko (1958), director and arts director at the Puppet Theatre at the Crossroads, the figure behind about one hundred theatrical directions at the Drama, Puppet Theatre, Opera and Circus. He collaborates with theatres in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. He is member of the organising team of the international festival of puppet theatre Bábkarská Bystrica. He staged his productions at a number of Slovak and foreign international festivals in the Czech Republic, in Poland, Bulgaria and France. He earned several prestigious awards for directing productions at Polish puppet theatres, such as the Golden Mask awarded by the Duchy of Silesia for the Best Production of the Year (Ivona, Princess of Burgundy at Opolski Teatr Lalki i Aktora im. Alojzego Smolki) in 2010, or the Main Award of the International Theatre Festival KORCZAK in Warsaw for his production A Mysterious Child (Teatr Lalka, Warsaw) in 2012. He appeared most recently at the IF Divadelná Nitra in 1998 with Nina Sadur’s Miss, which he prepared with the Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra.
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script of the production: EN titulky
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