adaptation: Jan Mikulášek and Dora Viceníková
dramaturgist: Dora Viceníková
designer: Marek Cpin
music selection: Jan Mikulášek
cast: Jiří Vyorálek, Honza Hájek, Jiří Kniha, Petr Jeništa, Magdaléna Sidonová, Miloslav König, Anežka Kubátová, Dita Kaplanová
Performance in Czech with English and Polish surtitles
Europeana – The history of Europe in the 20th century described with perspective, humour and caustic irony. This original dramatisation is a devastating commentary on the last century, in which an important role was played by war, the invention of the bra and perforated toilet paper. Banalities and key moments are here given the same space, and the result is a new view of our past.
Through mystification and precise facts, it creates a bizarre testimony to the world of the twentieth century. Patrik Ouřednik’s book was declared the most interesting book of 2001 in a survey by the newspaper Lidove noviny, was nominated for the 2001 Magnesia Litera award for fiction and has been translated into more than twenty languages.
Vlastimil Harl has written about Europeana: “Ouřednik’s text, which straddles the boundary between fiction and essays, is a provocative attempt at combining elements of the modern and postmodern in a monolithic but distinctly heterogeneous form. In other words, to create an experience of a world without God in an assembly of fictional episodes, documentary elements, historical data, meditations and paraphrases. Or, to put it differently and even more simply, to express the central themes of the modern using postmodern means – and here we have the 20th century.”
The actors and actresses behave like a peculiar type of mercurial matter which either shoots in all directions into anonymous individuality, or suddenly forms itself into a single mass of bodies, angrily jumping or masturbating. It would be wrong to characterise individual performances, since their fascinating strength consists of this common mutability. And also of some sort of sensibility, with which they and the director create emotionally-gradated scenes. For me personally, the endlessly-repeated falling and collapsing of bodies on to the floor is possibly the most evocative metaphor of the hopeless madness and ruin into which humanity has willingly fallen – and not only at times of war. No one has made sense of the twentieth century, but this Brno production has at least indicated the hopelessness of our attempts to understand each other.
Richard Erml, Divadelni noviny
At the start Mikulášek creates bands of sound: in a collage created by the actors themselves, the sounds can be heard of sleepers rattling under the trains going to the death camps, bombs exploding, soldiers singing as they go to the front, with hints of the Marsellaise and Roll Out The Barrel. Mikulášek’s production continues with the bold use of music, but the sound score is gradually complemented by the physical score: hints of masturbation and copulation, cramps, jumping, fits, starts and hangings. At the most powerful points of the production both scores come together, as with the trite motif of the Ode to Joy, “sung” in desperate sobs by actors rolling around on the floor. Another feature of the 20th century is shown in the moments when the actors simply jump to the whistle, while political insouciance is captured by a snatch of Beatles pop, for example. In one of the most entertaining scenes there is an eccentric reference to Bob Dylan’s recent seventieth birthday: here, his incendiary song Masters of War, the battle song of 60s pacifism, is sung by some sort of socialist bard with thick spectacle frames.
Jan Němec, Respekt
Director Jan Mikulášek has been coming up with one remarkable production after another for several seasons now. His work in the Brno Reduta, in particular, is justly attracting the attention of both audiences and theatre experts. His most recent production, Europeana, is the work of a great theatrical imagination, which, together with the actors, successfully takes on the tragicomic subject of the 20th century.
Jan Mikulášek (born 1978) – Born in Zlín, where both his parents were actors in the local theatre. After studying at the Academy Grammar School in Brno he gained a place at the Janáček Academy of Arts to study drama direction. He spent three years there, being taught first by Peter Scherhaufer and then Zbyněk Srba. After a successful production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Flight Across the Ocean he became the artistic head of the Brno theatre Polárka in 2001. Together with other young theatre artists he helped make Polárka a closely followed alternative theatre, focusing mostly on auteur work for as wide an audience spectrum as possible. He has also held the position of artistic head of the Petr Bezruč Theatre in Ostrava. In addition to directing, he actively devotes himself to composing music for the theatre. From this season on he is to become an in-house director at the Divadlo Na Zabradli.
Mikulášek’s direction is notably influenced by film approaches – in addition to having directed many adaptations of films, he also uses elements of film language on stage, such as cutting, detail, and parallel plot unfolding. His other major source of inspiration is fine art, from which he “takes” an emphasis on mise-en-scène and lighting. Mikulášek inclines towards grotesque stylisation, something for which he finds space even in major dramas.