Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre, Zvolen, SLOVAKIA
Silent Night, Lightless Night
Directed by Ivo Kristián Kubák
The uprising has begun. Filmmaker Paľo Bielik documents the battlefield, the Frontline Theatre Troupe exhilarate soldiers, injured and hospital personnel, counterfeit partisans loot and plunder. Multiple storylines unfold in parallel in different nooks of the Zvolen theatre, so the spectator is faced with a dilemma: Whom will he or she follow? Dialogue alternates with rapid action, and whoever wants to keep up with the plot must be constantly on their guard! This piece offers an unexpected and unconventional but powerful theatrical experience, underscored by the fact that to attend it the audience need to shuttle from Nitra to Zvolen.
During the recent period of a culminating pandemic that brought isolation, frustration and limited possibilities of leisure to people at large, online concerts, readings and children’s plays offered us some respite. We saw that art and its makers fulfil an indispensable role in any emergency. The same was the case in 1944, the critical days of the Second World War in Slovakia – during the Slovak National Uprising. The Frontline Theatre Troupe in head with Andrej Bagar offered encouragement to partisans, injured and hospital personnel; as a filmmaker, actor and director – the first Slovak Jánošík – Paľo Bielik documented the situation on the battlefield. These historic events serve as the ground for two of several storylines rife with dramatic tension, created by author Marie Nováková with the aid of authentic documents – memoirs, correspondence, diaries, and films. The signature of a seasoned playwright and well-treated historical material, one that is close to the audience in Zvolen, are but a few of this production’s draws. But most of all, this work offers an unusual experience because it presents a piece so-called immersive theatre, unseen in official cultural institutions in Slovakia until now. Director Ivo Kristián Kubák and set designer Aneta Kučeříková transformed the spaces of the Zvolen theatre into dozens of studio sets on (and between) which nearly ceaseless action unfolds.
It all begins in the foyer, or the film set of the first Slovak motion picture in colour, Hanka is Getting Married; later on spectators will pass through a parish church, a dark forest or a military hospital in the theatre’s operating rooms. The theatre bar is a place of rest and the tent of General Ján Golian. The audience can move seamlessly between these locations and enter interactions without notice. They are once extras, another time they are café guests, or they witness the events of the Uprising as partisans. In any case, they must keep their guard up at all times. Provided they are active enough, they can experience first-hand the stories of theatre professionals, filmmakers and partisans from the end of the war and even break a sweat. It is all up to their decision whom they will choose to follow and what story they will ultimately carry away from the adventure.
Silent Night, Lightless Night is not just an exceptional work in the context of the Zvolen theatre and its genre. Its crucial dialogues, but equally its action-filled, occasionally filmic scenes boast unforced and believable acting. Yet nobody breaks character for even a second. The tamer performances of Richard Sanitra, Ondřej Daniš, Veronika Slamková and all others together with highly elaborate places of action and costumes in historical tone (albeit with a touch of gothic post-punk) generate an illusion of a parallel reality anchored in the historical past. A brilliant execution of the demanding logistics is an unavoidable bonus that allows spectators to immerse themselves in the work truly uninterrupted. Besides the fact that the production is a gripping reflection on a turning point in Slovak history and the history of theatre, it also shows that the value of art does not lie in creation alone but also in the values of its originators. Those remembered in Zvolen were ready to keep an ethos that stood on the side of freedom, justice, mutual help and democracy even and especially in the most demanding times.
This production will be a premiere appearance for the Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre and the work of Czech director Ivo Kristián Kubák at the International Theatre Festival Divadelná Nitra.
directed by: Ivo Kristián Kubák
dramaturgy: Marie Nováková
translation and dramaturgy: Ján Chalupka
costume and set design: Aneta Kučeříková
music and sound design: Petr Filák
research: Alena Zemančíková, Marie Nováková, Ján Chalupka
cast: Richard Sanitra, Ondřej Daniš, Veronika Slamková, Štefan Šafárik, Marián Andrísek, Marián Kološta, Vladimír Rohoň, Juraj Smutný, Michal Ďuriš, Svetlana Hank Sarvašová, Tereza Slavkovská, Ján Marcinek, Jana Pilzová, Daniel Výrostek, Lucia Letková, Marek Rozkoš, Lukáš Keškeš, Henrich Pittner, Dana Korolová, Iveta Marcineková, Katarína Rozkošová, Vladena Škorvagová, Zlatica Gillová, Ján Selecký, Kevin Ivanko, Filip Brišák, Richard Galdun, Lucia Šcecinová, Andrea Süttöová, Jana Kleinová, Andrej Bilík, Lukáš Frankovič, Samuel Teicher, Janka Balková and employees of the DJGT theatre
singing and voices: Adriana Cieslaková, Petr Filák, Ján Chalupka
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Slovak Arts Council, SPP Foundation, LITA – Society of Authors
Ivo Kristián Kubák (1977)
graduated in theatre theory and criticism and directing from DAMU Prague. Together with dramaturge Marie Nováková, he co-founded the theatre company Tygr v tísni (Endangered Tiger) in 2010 and works as its artistic director. He has directed or co-directed several productions including Diaries 1959 – 1974, Alienation, Explosis, 1913. In 2013 Kubák’s roused attention with the interactive project GOLEM Štvanice, considered the first piece of immersive theatre made in the Czech Republic. Kubák leads the creative space VILA Štvanice as well as SVAŤÁK Štvanice Festival. In 2019 he curated the Czech exhibition for the Prague Quadriennale. He is also lecturer at the Department of Alternative Theatre at DAMU, leads studios of performative creation and is a judge in theatrical showcases. He also publishes expert studies, e.g. in the edition Divadlo a interakce (Theatre and Interaction).
Marie Nováková (1989)
is a dramaturge and author, and a graduate in dramaturgy from DAMU. Together with director Ivo Kristián Kubák, she co-founded the theatre company Tygr v tísni and the creative space VILA Štvanice. In her work, she focuses primarily on adapting undramatic material: Fervor (biography of E. Schiele and G. Trakl), Diaries 1959 – 1974 (adaptation of the diaries of P. Juráček), 1913 (adaptation of a novel by F. Illies), The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (immersive production for Theatre Drak in Hradec Králové). In 2014 – 2016 she was dramaturge of the Kladno City Theatre, since 2017 she is also dramaturge at the Klicpera Theatre in Hradec Králové.
“Silent Night, Lightless Night can be wholeheartedly ranked with the most notable Slovak productions rehearsed in repertory theatres in the recent years. It offers a suggestive and emotive experience, as well as the rare unsuperficial warning against a reprise of events from three-quarters a century ago.”
(Karol Mišovic, Pravda, 29 Feb 2020)
“One of the reasons behind the recent popularity of immersive theatre is that by its character it quenches the current demand for thrill, especially such that can be tailored to one personally. Theatre has an enormous advantage in this respect. In its DNA it has encoded a temporal and spatial untransferability and the principle of an encounter between one human being and another. Silent Night, Lightless Night offers a multitude of such experiences. Assembling them is up to you, and the best thing about it is that, try as you may, you will never completely eliminate the element of chance.”
(Miroslav Zwiefelhofer, monitoringdivadiel.sk, 28 May 2020)