State Theatre Košice, SLOVAKIA
Borodáč or Three sisters
directed by: Júlia Rázusová
Richly informative, provocative and filled with lively humour – such is this biographical production about an ordinary man from eastern Slovakia who grew to become one of the most important figures in Slovak theatre-making.
Richly informative, provocative and filled with lively humour – such is this biographical production about an ordinary man from eastern Slovakia who grew to become one of the most important figures in Slovak theatre-making. What was Janko Borodáč really like? The founding father of Slovak professional theatre, a giant on our directing scene, a legend requiring of mention anytime you wish to talk about Slovak theatre’s history? This piece offers a collage on Borodáč’s life pieced together of autobiographical sources, archival material and recollections of his contemporaries. We gradually uncover the controversiality of Borodáč the man – a personality both loved and hated, and an uncritical admirer of Russian theatre practitioner K. S. Stanislavski – through learning facts about his life while following a reconstruction of the rehearsals for his Košice production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters from 1952. This union of Borodáč the theatrical traditionalist, progressive director Júlia Rázusová and an excellent actors’ troupe from the State Theatre Košice (M. Erby, A. Ďuránová, R. Šudík, Ľ. Blaškovičová, and others) promises a show to be remembered.
This production was co-selected by the Audience Programme Board of the BeSpectACTive! Project.
No survey of the history of Slovak theatre can omit the name Janko Borodáč. An actor both loved and hated in his lifetime and many years after his death, cloaked in legends and questions that have yet to be resolved. Borodáč has come down in our theatrical historiography as a founder, but also a rigorous man, an impeder of progress and uncritical disciple of Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Sergeyevich Stanislavski. The Košice production of Borodáč or Three Sisters, rehearsed to commemorate one hundred years since the birth of Slovak professional theatre, offers a matter-of-fact view of this controversial persona inseparable from the roots of the Slovak National Theatre and Košice’s post-war scene.
The production presents a collage on Borodáč’s life. The trio of authors distinguished by generation – Karol Horák, Michal Ditte, Michal Baláž – and director Júlia Rázusová and dramaturges Miriam Kičiňová and Peter Himič have crafted a mosaic text based on autobiographical sources, surviving archives and reports of living contemporaries, cast as Janko Borodáč’s reminiscence about his life. The character of the First outlines, without temporal or spatial sequence, the most important waymarks in Borodáč’s tortuous personal and professional path. These intertwine with rehearsals for his peak Košice production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters from 1952. Many of Chekhov’s lines are made into retrospective bridges to Borodáč’s youth in Prešov, military service and other periods formative for him as a human being and professional. Through Chekhov’s four acts, the director also tries to chart the genesis of the Slovak acting aesthetic, from declamations during the 1920s when force of enunciation and illustrativeness of behaviour were falsely passed off as pure passion to a civil style where every whiff of theatrical delivery was but inorganic excess.
Júlia Rázusová created a production in total dramatical antagonism to the traditionalism of Borodáč. Her poetics of immediate cut, use of eclectic elements, counterpoint of movement and word or accelerative tempo, where historical facts and connections melt into metaphorical scenes, was easily taken up by Košice theatre’s drama company. The director steered them toward unwavering focus in seamlessly combining psychological nuance and stylized detachment in the actors’ expressions.
The piece does not pay homage to a selfless but poetically quaint manager, director, dramaturge, actor, translator, publicist and pedagogue Janko Borodáč. The creators’ purpose was to offer an impartial view of a personality well-known in theatre circles but still inviting many questions and controversies.
concept, adapted and directed by: Júlia Rázusová
expert advice: Peter Himič, Karol Mišovic
dramaturgy: Peter Himič
dramaturgical co-operation: Miriam Kičiňová
set and costume design: Markéta Plachá
music: Michal Paľko
bust of Stanislavski by: Jozef Kurinec
cast: Matej Erby, Róbert Šudík, Alena Ďuránová, Stanislav Pitoňák, Tatiana Poláková, Adriana Ballová, Ľuba Blaškovičová, Jakub Kuka, Juraj Zetyák, Tomáš Diro
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Slovak Arts Council, Nitra Self-Governing Region, The City of Nitra, SPP Foundation, LITA — authors society
Júlia Rázusová (1982) graduated in aesthetics and Slovak language and literature from the Faculty of Arts of the Prešov University and in theatre directing and dramaturgy from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Since 2013, she is artistic director of the independent Prešov National Theatre, which she co-founded with dramaturge Michaela Zakuťanská. She was a director for the international project Platforma 11+ and has collaborated with most theatres in Slovakia, including Astorka Korzo ‘90, Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra, Alexander Duchnovič Theatre in Prešov, the Slovak National Theatre, State Theatre Košice, J. G. Tajovský Theatre in Zvolen, Žilina City Theatre and others. She earned the Dosky 2018 award for Best Direction of the Season with her production of Joël Pommerat’s The Reunification of the Two Koreas (State Theatre Košice, featured at ITF Divadelná Nitra 2018). Her play Moral Insanity (featured at ITF Divadelná Nitra 2019), produced for the Prešov National Theatre, earned her the Grand Prix at Nová dráma/New Drama Festival 2019 and Dosky 2019 Award for Best Direction of the Season. She curated the Slovak programme section of ITF Divadelná Nitra 2019.
‘When someone decides to dedicate his or her time and abilities to studying the life of someone else, it is usually for the reason that they respect and admire him – often fanatically so. This devotion to an idol is humanly understandable and completely natural but is not most fortunate as the basis for an artwork; a conformist eulogy excites no one and is usually irritating. It is much more intriguing when the portraitist struggles with his or her own reservations and even – dare I say – aversion. Devotional obeisance gives way to an unsentimental search for the truth, without whitewashing or withholding uncomfortable aspects of the character in question. Fortunately, this was the approach chosen by the playwrights and auteurs of Borodáč’s portrait from Košice. They did not let themselves be seduced by ceremonial embellishment of an important jubilee and created a production that truthfully reflects the dramatic community’s uncertain relationship to its founding figure – put plainly, today’s theatre-makers aren’t exactly thrilled about Borodáč.’ (Martina Ulmanová, Sme, 23 February 2021)
‘In a way, Matej Erby’s Borodáč is a man living in his own world. The character’s interpretation closely resembles Chekhovian poetics built on the principle of humour that has comic detachment from the characters but never turns into mockery. For instance, the acting in passages where Borodáč rehearses Three Sisters is very accurate. Erby namely succeeds in depicting two aspects in this part. On the one hand, his character’s boundless admiration for the script at stake; on the other, he fully reveals the comical face of Borodáč’s uncritical devotion to the author and love for his own directorial–dramaturgical interpretation. In this rendition, our founding father of professional directing is just as much a man who, upon reaching flow state, is deaf to his surroundings. He gazes into his own directorial visions, recites lines in sync with the actors. This motif of being cut off from reality is illustrated very well in a scene where Oľga Borodáčová tries to hint to her husband that she would like to spend an evening together in a more intimate atmosphere. Borodáč, caught up in editing a bulletin, successfully ignores her innuendo. In essence this is a scene built on a classic situational joke, whose punchline pivots on the cluelessness of a man oblivious of/ignoring his partner’s sexual invitations. Usually, one could venture the question if this type of comic humour is not rather unimaginative. The answer here is that it is not.’ (Miroslav Zwiefelhofer, Monitoring divadiel na Slovensku, 31 March 2021)