Sat / 8 / 6 / 24
19.00 – 20.50
K. Spišák Old Theatre in Nitra 
> Great hall

in Czech with English surtitles

The 2024 Divadelná Nitra opening ceremony precedes the performance.

Na zábradlí Theatre, Prague, CZECH REPUBLIC


directed by: Jan Mikulášek

It is not the first time that dramaturge Dora Štědroňová and stage director Jan Mikulášek reached for the correspondence to give life to a paper conversation on stage. The production Correspondence V+W (2010) was created from the prodigious letters of Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich. It became one of the foremost events of the Czech theatre after 2000. In Public Enemies, from two monologues in letters a virtuoso dialogue emerges and is layered in front of us. Perhaps the best-known thinkers of the day, the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and the writer Michel Houellebecq exchanged for six months opinions on public and quite private topics – on literature, art, God, politics, relationships with parents and women. Their language is intellectually sublime and surprisingly commonplace. To be a public enemy means to be a critic and to be criticised, to be an executioner and to be executed. And so, these two last representatives of Western intellectual and persona, who epitomise man of the 20th century, not only prod us with their views and their godlikeness, but also reveal their weaknesses and sensitivities as they approach us. The production Public Enemies is enormously powerful in terms of the concentration of dialogue and narration: one cannot tear oneself away. That, however, is also because of the phenomenal performances of the two lead protagonists, Miloslav König as Houellebecq and Václav Vašák as Lévy, and the striking images and spectacular set design by Dragan Stojčevski. The works by the Na zábradlí Theatre  are regularly nominated and award-winning, such as the Czech Theatre Critics Awards (for 2023, the nomination went both to the Theatre and Miloslav König). The Theatre features regularly and to much acclaim at Divadelná Nitra: after the celebrated pieces by Petr Lébl and Jan Antonín Pitínský, it last brought to Nitra the cult production The Golden Sixties directed by Jan Mikulášek in 2014.

direction: Jan Mikulášek
translation: Alan Beguivin
dramaturgy: Dora Štědroňová
set and costume design: Dragan Stojčevski
cast: Miloslav König, Václav Vašák

Jan Mikulášek

After uncompleted studies in stage directing at the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts, Mr Mikulášek was the artistic director of the Polárka Theatre in Brno. He was then also artistic director of The Petr Bezruč Theatre in Ostrava and regularly collaborated with the Reduta Theatre in Brno. In 2013, when Reduta artistic director Petr Štědroň took over the management of the Theatre Na zábradlí, Mr Mikulášek became staff stage director there. In 2011, he won the Divadelní noviny Award for Creative Achievement in the Drama category for the production of Correspondence V+W and, in 2013, the Alfréd Radok Award for the production of The Golden Sixties, in 2018 the Divadelní noviny Award for the production of Mýcení. This production also earned him the 2018 Josef Balbín Award for Mýcení, awarded by the German Language Prague Theatre Festival.

The production team draws from a fifteen-year-old work and present the pair as they were (or as they wished to be) seen at the time. After all, the media image is one of the topics that Houellebecq and Lévy address in their letters and that the stage director Mikulášek chose for his adaptation. It is also one of those moments when seemingly the opposite beings come together. They both admit that, though public criticism aggravates them, in a way they both sympathise with it, and that the media attention related to criticism is very good for them.

Tomáš Šťástka: What does a caviar leftist do when a stuck-up nihilist poops behind his tent? In, 29 November 2023

The polemic opens in a dense forest, where one of the debaters is camping and the other is peeling splinters from a branch with a knife. The forest is understandably laminated, printed on photographic paper installed on stage – perhaps a hint that the gradual destruction of the ecosystem will eradicate life. Yet, it can also be a hyperbole of a withered tribe, completing the meeting point of Beckett’s characters with Godot (…) In Beckett’s play, the friends Estragon and Vladimir, often depicted as clowns, are keen for the arrival of Godot. They cling to a bizarre timelessness and talk over and over. The first few sequences of Public Enemies are also repeated in this spirit. With each change of the topic that needs to be discussed, the scene changes. Dragan Stojčevski’s artistic design plays a crucial role: sometimes he glosses humorously, other times he vividly shows what is being discussed. As the writers gradually expose themselves in the dialogues, the set design reveals to the spectator individual layers. When it comes to personal heroism and civic engagement, the artist uses a clue background and projects both a famous painting of the French Revolution and photographs of recent street riots there.

Marcela Magdová: Houellebecq and Lévy are disgusted with themselves and the world. The novelty from Zábradlí deserves a prize. In Aktuálně.cz, 14 November 2023