The issue opens with the next instalment of Miroslav Petříček’s “fashion series” and this time the essay “The Fashion of Ostentatious Lavishness” is accompanied by an excerpt from Thorstein Veblen’s work “The Economic Theory of Woman’s Dress”. Karel Haloun’s series on “graphics in public space” continues with the instalment “Portraits and Figures” and the introductory section “Fashion… from the Future” closes with two linked essays by Marie Alm (“Archaeology from the Future”) and Robert Zeman (“The Ballot Box”). The director Jan Kačena is introduced in the section “The Menagerie… of the Storyteller Kačena”, including a comprehensive interview entitled “If You Allow a Chance Event, You May Get a Gift” and reviews by Marie Zdeňková review (“The Seamy Sides of Dainty Furry Coats”) of the productions The Russian Field of Experiments and A Treatise on Steppenwolf and by Barbora Etlíková (“Communication on the Fist Place”) on the production God is a Woman/Messiah is his Daughter. The Opera-Dance section “Time… and the Sun Itself” introduces Karolina Plicková’s review of Constellations II – Time for Sharing by the Spitfire Company (“A Stinging Tango in the Hot Summer Fog” – q.v.) and Karel Král’s of the opera Sternenhoch by Ivan Acher, staged at the Prague National Theatre (“Honourable Audience, Surprise!” – q.v.). In the section “Konwitschny’s… Opera Tragedy” Michaela Mojžišová looks at a world opera (“The Soldier, the Mother and the Daughter of the Town”). The section “A Report… of the Trial” includes reviews of two adaptations of Franz Kafka’s work – Tereza Pavelková (“A Report on Humanity”) writes about A Report to the Academy directed by Katharina Schmitt and staged at Studio Hrdinů, and Jan Jiřík (“Like the Dogs”) writes about an adaptation of The Trial directed by Krystian Lupa at the Teatr Nowy in Warsaw. In the section “On the British… Archipelago” Dana Silbier Sliuková writes (“Classics in the English Countryside”) about The Cherry Orchard at the Bristol Old Vic, Macbeth by the Factory Company, and Baker’s Agnes Colander directed by Trevor Nunn and produced by the Theatre Royal Bath, while Ondřej Pilný considers contemporary Irish drama. The section “Havelka… Documentary” comprises Ester Žantovská’s review “The Fellowships of Lonely Individuals” (q.v.) and an interview with the director Jiří Havelka entitled “Between Art and Reality”, foreshadowing the play of this issue, which is Havelka’s The Association of Unit Owners (q.v.). A short story by Petr Vydra is entitled Jealousy and Egon Tobiáš’s comic strip Titanium Stalks continues.
A Stinging Tango in the Hot Summer Fog Karolina Plicková writes about a recent production by the Spitfire Company entitled Constellations II (Time for Sharing), premiered in March 2018 at the Ponec theatre in Žižkov. The project is the second part of an intended multi-genre, dance-graphic art-musical trilogy in which the ensemble moves far beyond the borders of “mere” motion theatre. This time, under the direction of the art director Petr Boháč, no meeting of a live orchestra with many dancers on the stage; instead a simple stage design suffices, created by a set of arrows driven into the shape of circle, together with rich spatial sound and three dancers. From the stroboscopic flickering of lights and in an acoustic landscape composed of the regular ticking of several metronomes a slowed down impressionistic scene reminiscent of Virginia Woolf’s novels begins to unwind. The theme is apparently time and its passing. The dancing of all three female performers resembles the neurotic ticking of a clock‘s hands but also the drowsy stretching of girls sunbathing somewhere in a baking hot countryside near the equator. The air is heavy, eyelids narrow and the experience is densely hypnotic. Much depends on the audience, to what extent they allow themselves to be absorbed by the minimalistic structure; the project is, however, a real success.
Sternenhoch at the National Theatre This is the operatic first fruit of Ivan Acher, an admirer of the amateurish, the gawky, but at the same time nonstereotypical creativity. He has taken up the threads of the approach and life attitude of Ladislav Klíma (1878–1928) whose grotesque mystery tale he has adapted. Through the methods of pulp literature, ghostly pornographic slayer fiction, Klíma achieved a deeper clarity of his philosophical thoughts. The writer might have been saddened by the selections and overall moralizing, but he would have been pleased by the way the spirit of his prose has been embodied in music. It has the same humour built on contradiction: it is at one and the same time slow and fast, somnambulistically lyrical and wildly dancy, deathly sluggish and fatally frightening, grotesque and nightmarish. Acher has combined live performance (violin, viola, contra-bassoon and cither) with pre-recorded music, natural and distorted sound (sampling, electronics, revox choirs…). In the title role Sergey Kostov oscillates between a manly tenor and a wimpish contra-tenor and due to distorting techniques Vanda Šípová’s soprano (Helga, femme fatale and a ghost) falls into a growling, tiger bass and rises to unearthly heights. The singers’ very successful trespassing of their utmost limits is a musical expression of the limits trespassed by the characters interpreted. The third main role is the witch Kuhmist played by the singing actress and violinist Tereza Marečková. Sternenhoch was staged at the National Theatre with music directed by Petr Kofroň and directed by Michal Dočekal. The opera has deservedly received considerable recognition and Karel Král writes about the production in his essay “Honourable Audience, Surprise!”
The Fellowships of Lonely Individuals In both the Vosto5 theatre’s production The Association of Unit Owners and The Retraining Course by René Levínský, Johana Švarcová and Petr Vaněk, the main thing is to show the most realistic impact of the situation when a group of non-coherent individuals comes together for some reason. However, what the meeting is about or what a spectator takes away from it is ultimately the last thing of interest. The spectator becomes an (indirect) participant at the meeting or a (direct) course attendee. Thus they are not separated and elevated above the absurdity of what is happening, and both exceptionally well-crafted productions show – although through different means –an unwillingness to agree on anything, to present each other with something essential, to come out of one’s own shell and to “meet” in any way. In The Retraining Course a peculiar, slightly autistic instructor guides the audience through his own lonely, frustrated life rather than teaching them (for instance with the help of absurd mini-tests) anything about computers. It seems that for him infiltrating virtual reality and thus abandoning the world of overly complicated interpersonal relations and emotions is a perfect salvation. In The Association of Unit Owners absolute chaos and the gradual transformation of the meeting into a menagerie have their roots in an inability to really listen to each other, to carry on a meaningful, rational discussion. They quibble, resolving trivialities, they wash their dirty linen in public, paranoia mounts and animosity between characters grows. Within the bounds of the mounting disputes, periodic votes, shouting and shooting the breeze, general social themes also crystallize from all this banality – racism, totalitarian mentality, deceitful wheeling and dealing, homophobia and the failure of intellectual elites.