Divadlo LAB, Bratislava, SLOVAKIA
directed by: Kateřina Quisová
This tragicomedy by renowned contemporary American dramatist Israel Horovitz presents a fictitious situation where the German chancellor offers Jews to return to the land of their forefathers.
This tragicomedy by renowned contemporary American dramatist Israel Horovitz presents a fictitious situation where the German chancellor offers Jews to return to the land of their forefathers. What is more – as restitution for their wrongdoing during World War II, she also grants them regular citizen status and a stable employment. The first-ever Slovak staging of this politically controversial play is a mature and confident intimate piece by young director and directing student at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts Kateřina Quisová and a well-coordinated class of actors (A. Janeková, S. Kollárová, S. Ľasoková, D. Ambróš, J. Janotík). In its method and precisely gradated atmosphere, this stylistically pure production affords insight into the universal theme of repeating history and historical errors. It does not simply treat of problems in German-Jewish relations; Horovitz writes and Quisová rehearses a universal message: what changes is always history, but never people.
This production was co-selected by the Audience Programme Board of the BeSpectACTive! Project.
Lebensraum by American playwright Israel Horovitz presents us with a fictional situation where the German chancellor offers redress to the descendants of Jews exiled after World War II by allowing them return to the land of their forefathers. But it doesn’t end there. She also guarantees them full naturalisation, stable employment and a standard of living. The play then narrates several parallel stories of a diverse group of people who, for one reason or another, either take up on or refuse the offer, as well as those who are suddenly moved to respond to shifts in the formerly stable geopolitical world map. The piece explores plurality: of thought, of attitudes, life decisions and social and human values. Its structure, followed thoroughly in the Bratislava production, involves brief and densely informative tragicomic situations of an almost mosaic blueprint, gradually layering multiple storylines that come to a surprising finale.
Director Kateřina Quisová, for whom this production was ‘just’ her Bachelor’s project during her studies of directing at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, has already proved her potential as an artist. Her Lebensraum boasts a stylistic purity, a fraught and purposefully gradated atmosphere, malleable work with her class of actors, and especially a clearly accented theme. Quisová, that is, does not stage a script about a historical or even contemporary problem having exclusively to do with German-Jewish relations. Her intimate production sheds light on the general theme of repeating historical errors, with the clear corollary that what changes is history, not people. The director fully embraced the play’s flippant style and built a production sensibly poised on the tragicomical edge between sentiment and grotesqueness with an adamantly pacifist message. Curtly but forcefully, she takes aim for the auditorium, to which even the actors regularly turn as if to ask for our opinion by way of the imaginary hypothesis about atonement for historical wrongdoing. What would we do? Do we have to open old wounds and blame ourselves for our ancestors’ mistakes at all costs? Or does it suffice simply to learn from them once and for all?
translation, dramaturgy, directed by: Kateřina Quisová
scenography: Frederika Brozdianska, Eva Miklisová
productuion: Daniel Izrael, Laura Šarišská
cast: Annamária Janeková, Simona Kollárová, Sandra Ľasoková, Dušan Ambróš, Jakub Janotík
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by programme Creative Europe of the European Union, Slovak Arts Council, Nitra Self-Governing Region, The City of Nitra, SPP Foundation, LITA — authors society
Kateřina Quisová (1994) is a native of Ostrava, Czech Republic. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in theatre dramaturgy and drama from the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and is currently completing her Master’s degree in directing under Marián Amsler, Martin Ondriska, Ingrid Timková and Marek Majeský. Since 2018, she is active as an author, dramaturge and director in the Academy’s theatre Divadlo LAB as well as other theatres and cultural centres (e.g., Homo Hamlet: A Shakespearian Mosaic of the 21. Century, Clarissine Church, 2021; Uršula Kovalyk: Take Care, Julia, P. O. Hviezdoslav Theatre, 2020). She has also authored radio plays (Dead Angle, RTVS – Rádio Devín, 2019). She was assistant director to M. Amsler during his production of War and Peace at the Slovak National Theatre in 2018.
‘The directorial-dramaturgical conception involves contrasting views of individual characters on opposing sides but also features parallels between fiction and current events. There are noticeable analogies between the Chancellor and Angela Merkel, who has been notoriously accused of opening doors to migrants. […] The director is keen of fragmentation. In the first half she works to portray the characters’ individual profiles and attitudes. We become familiar with the setting and personalities, but a dramatic conflict already develops and looms between the two camps – accept the Jews among themselves or not? Return to Germany or not? These are fundamental questions that set the story and characters in motion.’ (Adam Nagy, reflektor.vsmu.sk, 19 December 2019)