Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin, SLOVAKIA
The Czech Comedy about The Rich Man and Lazarus
Directed by Lukáš Brutovský
Director Lukáš Brutovský rewrote Pavel Kyrmezer’s Biblical Czech–couched Renaissance morality play into a contemporary piece. The result is a modern, visually compelling and musically original production that delivers a focused performance by the tight-knit actors’ ensemble from Martin. However, the spotlight is on the spectacular Tomáš Mischura as the Rich Man, whom the creators hold up as a mercilessly critical mirror to today’s consumer-materialist society.
This production was co-selected by the Spectator Programme Board of the Be SpectACTive! Project.
The Czech Comedy about The Rich Man and Lazarus is a Renaissance morality play by Pavel Kyrmezer written in biblical Czech over 450 years ago. Despite the fact that it only appeared on stage in the 1960s, it boasts a relatively rich stage tradition. The first and seminal production of Kyrmezer’s play was rehearsed by Eduard Žlábek and Milan Sládek with students from the Academy of Performing Arts in 1964. It was undoubtedly a display of the talent of the upcoming actors’ generation – Marián Labuda, Stano Dančiak, Karol Čálik, Pavol Mikulík, Ľubo Roman, Ida Rapaičová, or Oľga Šalagová – names that have since written themselves time and time again in Slovak theatrical history. The production, following in the footsteps of director E. F. Burian’s stylised folk tradition of the 1930s, was also staged to acclaim at a theatre festival in Germany. Critics lauded its trailblazing dramaturgy and the creators’ courage to reach for a so-far unrehearsed archaic text.
The play has already sen a production at the Martin theatre during the 1995/1996 season by director Matúš Oľha. The ‘wild’ 1990s likewise proved fertile ground for reviving a parable about a man who thinks money endows him the right to do anything, though critics remarked Oľha mainly emphasised the storyline’s fantasticality, playful theatricality and message of love.
This newest interpretation by director and artistic director of the Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin Lukáš Brutovský is considerably sharper in tone. His ‘biblical revival’ unmasks and pillories the pride and egoism of those who believe money gives them all the power in the world, and implicitly flags social inequality as on the most burning problems of modern globalised capitalism. Whether today’s ‘Rich Men’ are certain political elites, showbiz celebrities, or the oligarch crème de la crème, and whether we take Lazarus as a token for a migrant or an impoverished person from one of Slovakia’s hunger valleys, we are all equal in the hour of death. Still many behave as though this had nothing to do with them. This message gains urgency in the Martin production, even though the creators have the text worded in its original linguistic rendition.
Set designer Juraj Kuchárek and costume artist Alžbeta Kutliaková have aptly clothed the production in gold. They also relied on oversized decorations and massive character heads, who megalomaniacally crave anything that can bought for money and for whom morality is but an empty term and obstacle. Brutovský is known for his inclination toward traditional drama and an ability to glean ideas relevant for the present day – here too, his direction has resulted in a by all means modern piece of theatre.
The tight-knight actors’ crew from Martin deliver a balanced and focused performance, dominated by Tomáš Mischura as the smug egoistical Rich Man, a symbol of today’s upstart elite. A visually, sonically and musically full-fledged, stylised and original work, the production poignantly criticizes today’s consumer-materialist society and poses uncomfortable questions about our hierarchies of value. That the creators succeeded in finding the correct interpretive key is proved by the fact that spectators are left bitterly embarrassed. This is not unlike the felling when we sometimes prefer to cross the street rather than stop by a homeless man. Kyrmezer’s script remains resonant even centuries after it first saw the light of day.
adapted and directed by Lukáš Brutovský
dramaturgy: Róbert Mankovecký, Miro Dacho
set design: Juraj Kuchárek
costume design: Alžbeta Kutliaková, Juraj Kuchárek
music: Lukáš Brutovský, Tomáš Grega
cast: Tomáš Mischura, Daniel Žulčák, Lucia Jašková, Alena Pajtinková, Tomáš Grega, Jaroslav Kysel, Barbora Palčíková, Zuzana Rohoňová
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by Slovak Arts Council, SPP Foundation, LITA – Society of Authors, The Creative Europe Programme of the European Union
Lukáš Brutovský (1988)
graduated in theatre directing and dramaturgy from the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a director he has worked with numerous theatres in Slovakia and the Czech Republic (e.g. Parasite at the Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra, Flags in the Wind at the City Theatre Kladno, Midnight Mass at the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, The Misanthrope at Švandovo divadlo in Prague). Since 2015 he is director and artistic director at the Slovak Chambre Theatre in Martin. He authors theatrical translations, theatre and radio plays, and produces scenic music. He is a recipient of a number of awards at international university festivals for directing, 1st Place in the Drama for his script At Lunch in 2009, and the Theatre News award for his direction of Maryša, a play by the brothers Mrštík, at HaDivadlo in Brno in 2014.
“The character of Croesus proved decisive for Brutovský. Visual artist Juraj Kuchárek made him his own mirror podium whence he does not descend throughout the whole running time of the performance. This space is a reflection of his well-polished ego and symbol of his superiority to the surrounding world. […] Croesus is both titan and Napoleonic figure – small in bodily stature, but great in vanity. The actor [T. Mischura] confidently portrays him as an elitist cynic, who while enumerating his assets enunciates each with a different tone of voice, with patent delight and an emphasis on self-presentation. The production’s final message rings like straightforward moralism, much like the play itself seems today. But the Martin ‘Comedy’ nevertheless shows it – unfortunately – remains just as relevant in this day and age.”
(Karol Mišovic, Pravda, 31. 1. 2019)