GAFFA, Bratislava, SLOVAKIA
Bernard‑Marie Koltès — Martin Hodoň
In the Solitude
Directed by Martin Hodoň
An encounter between two strangers somewhere on the outskirts creates space for a philosophical essay about men and the potential depth of their relationships. The multivocal dialogue of a dealer and his client prompts reflection on the idea that a desire to possess, control, manipulate and commit violence may in fact express weakness or even love. The actors handle tension meticulously, and much of the performance’s impact is due to the mutual action of their bodies. This minimalist stage play of focused dialogue and unsettling movement takes hold of the audience’s mind and emotion.
Until his premature death in 1989, playwright and director Bernard-Marie Koltès was considered a momentous figure in French theatre, a successor to Beckett, Genet and Claudel. The themes of his work were closely related to his personal life. A homosexual in a world governed heterosexuals, he took keen interest in people who, like him, were condemned to the margins of society. Blacks, gangsters and misfits from the underworld inspired his rough but lyrical scores sensitive in their handling of language, its rhythm and sound, as well as the word itself – its substance and effect.
Koltès’ masterpiece In the Solitude of Cotton Fields presents a dialogical swordplay between a duo of characters – a client and a dealer – dense with tacit emotion. By way of original adaptation, young Slovak director Martin Hodoň created In the Solitude. Hodoň respects playwright’s poetics, does not attempt to discover meanings or decipher the lines’ sense, and so to reach an alleged heart of the matter. He transforms Koltès’ play, unburdened by specific spatial and temporal localisation, into a surprising, perhaps undesired, perhaps fatal encounter between two strangers somewhere on the outskirts. An initially mysterious, multivocal text turns into a conversation on desire and power, on dependence and on the need to dominate and tempt, but equally to be owned and tempted. The dialogue’s rhythmic flow eventually leads into an association on Michel Houellebecq’s idea from his novel Soumission, who characterised male relationships as an eternal balancing act between ‘pederasty and strife’. In the Solitude in many ways resembles the dialogue between Mephistopheles and Faust, except here it is unclear who is the demon and who the craver.
From a yawning scene, often shrouded in darkness or quietly dim, actors František Maňák and Mark Kristián Hochman handle tension and intensity meticulously. Besides the dynamics of dialogue, the production importantly relies on the effect of the performers’ bodies in scenes hovering on the boundary of contemporary dance and physical theatre. We hear alienation in their voice and intonation – but physically, they are supremely present. The combination of word, movement and space generates a peculiar, almost paralysing energy, rouses uncertainty, but also moves one to curiosity. The production does not convey a single moral message but instead stirs reflections on the idea that a desire to own, control, manipulate, that blackmail and violence need not always be expressions of power. They may very well be signs of weakness, fear, vulnerability, defence, and in a certain respect even total love. This minimalist theatre of focused dialogue and unsettling movement reconstitutes our view of the contemporary ethos and suggests that it not just confined to the sphere of ‘official’ society but that it also exists on its limits – albeit in another form, following other rules. In the Solitude is a philosophical tractate about men, masculinity and the possibilities of male intimacy, seizing both the audience’s mind and emotion.
directed by Martin Hodoň
set, costume and light design: Michal Hōr Horáček
choreographic collaboration: Viktor Černický
production: Sylvie Vojtová, Adam Harton
cast: Mark Kristián Hochman, František Maňák
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Slovak Arts Council, SPP Foundation, LITA – Society of Authors
Martin Hodoň (1989)
graduated in theatre studies from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and in directing and dramaturgy from the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts in Brno. He mostly focuses mostly on original and physical theatre, with overlaps in contemporary dance and explorations of the relationship between performance art and performing arts. During his studies at JAMU, he rehearsed an original adaptation of In the Solitude of Cotton Fields by B. M. Koltès, titled In the Solitude, which later served as the starting point for an eponymous production by GAFFA. For his master’s degree, he submitted an original production titled ISBN (International Serial Body Number). He has collaborated with Theatre Husa na provázku in Brno, the National Theatre Brno, dancer Tomáš Janypka, and the amateur theatre company DS Daxner in Tisovec. In 2015 he co-founded the independent performative platform GAFFA with Dáša Čiripová and Zuzana Némethová, which has produced the projects EVA, Slowly Passing Days, negative_eGOtrip, bytheway. He works with Theatre NoMantinels and is a dramaturge for Drama Queer Festival Bratislava.
“… the French tradition, overly attached to text, has led the director to reduce the script in order to gain more space for action. Paradoxically, precisely those places where balance is struck between action and text are the most successful and proof of the director’s virtuosity.”
“These Cotton Fields are a thoroughgoing synthesis of a powerful script, gripping acting and all available yet simple elements that I like in theatre.”