Divadlo z Pasáže, Banská Bystrica, SLOVAKIA
Collective of authors
Directed by Monika Kováčová
Divadlo z Pasáže (Theatre from the Passage) is the only Slovak professional theatre that systematically engages mentally and physically challenged actors. Its productions give voice to side-lined groups but equally fulfil the standards of artistic quality. This collective piece directed by Monika Kováčová explores the limits of normativity imposed by society, provoking the audience with relentless honesty and a dash of humour in a quest to dismantle the line between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The actors’ moving reflections and spontaneous creativity offer a glimpse of what they understand as being normal (or not).
This production was co-selected by the Spectator Programme Board of the Be SpectACTive! Project.
Divadlo z Pasáže (Theatre from the Passage) is the only Slovak professional theatre that systematically engages mentally challenged actors. It is one among a few local examples of the practice of applied theatre, endeavouring to show that our country is not only populated by healthy individuals of the same ethnicity, religious confession, sexual or gender identity and of good economic status. Like Winter’s Journey, another production programmed for ITF Divadelná Nitra 2020, The Norm by Divadlo z Pasáže reminds us of the plain reality that what is different is not necessarily worse or less important for the symbiosis of the community we form. It also observes that simply accepting this reality is simply not enough for an aspiring civil society, because it does nothing to remove the underlying inequality and injustice against marginalised groups. The crew of Divadlo z Pasáže understand, for instance, that art should be accessible to all, and that everyone, irrespective of their belonging to this or that group, should equally have an opportunity to partake in artistic creation.
The Norm, directed by Monika Kováčová, differs from the theatre’s several previous projects by having originated not in a script or directorial intention but the members of the actors’ company themselves. Their conversations about what they think important in life, what they hope to achieve, what their dreams are and how they would like to be seen by society provided the director with a plethora of material to treat. Their collective work explores the limits of normativity, generally imposed by majority society, and provokes the spectator with an uncompromising honesty. While Winter’s Journey relies on a highly aestheticized artistic in treating otherness, The Norm visualizes otherness and with a dose of humour attempts to dismantle the boundary between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Actors from Divadlo z Pasáže prove that we are all similar in our need for social acceptance and a desire to belong, to be a relevant and autonomous part of a community. Their joint testimony provides unexpected feedback about our often stereotypical perceptions of people with mental impairments (though this can also relate to other types of diversity and divergence from ‘the norm’).
In any case, the director did not renounce theatrical form. It is a full-fledged piece of theatre with visual scenic appeal. The creative team do not shy from dramatic shorthand, symbol or work with light and objects. The central trope here is that of a box, which represents ‘boxes in us and boxes around us’, or in other words pigeonholing and categorisation, limits, barriers and prejudices we are bequeathed culturally and historically but also those we create ourselves. Still the production’s message is quite simple, and it is most aptly illustrated by the introductory metaphor of a carrot – although a bent carrot may look inferior, it does not toe the line and will not reach the supermarket shelf, it is still a carrot, it looks and tastes like a carrot. It contains the same vitamin A that allows us to see – you only need to put off your blinders and crawl out of your mental box. Divadlo z Pasáže have already appeared at ITF Divadelná Nitra in 1996 with their production The Tale of Popolvár, As You May Not Know it.
directed by: Monika Kováčová
costume and set design: Ivana Macková
music: Lukáš Kubičina
choreography: Kristína Chmelíková
dramaturgy and assistant of director: Eva Ogurčáková
light design: Ján Čief
sound design: Dušan Ivan
production: Matúš Petričko, Zuzana Javorská
cast: Michal Daniš, Michaela Ďuricová, Ján Kinčeš, Lucia Krajčiová, Miriam Kujanová, Veronika Lačná, Peter Hudec, Eva Ogurčáková (voice)
Monika Kováčová (1988)
graduated in theatre directing from the Academy of Arts in Banská Bystrica and in alternative and puppet theatre directing from DAMU Prague. In 2008 – 2015 she worked at On the Crossroads Puppet Theatre in Banská Bystrica and as a dramaturgy lecturer and practitioner. She directed the first theatre plays for toddlers in Slovakia (Toddlarium, 2011; AQUAtoddlaRIUM, 2012; COLOURtoddlarium, 2013), which earned the Hašterica Creative Accomplishment Award in Slovak Puppet Theatre 2015. She is a founding member of the independent theatre company Odivo. As dramaturge, she collaborates with Záhrada – Centre of Independent Culture in Banská Bystrica, and is also active in theatre management and production. She has seen collaborations with Divadlo z Pasáže, Studio DAMÚZA Prague, Dance Studio Theatre in Banská Bystrica, and the Bratislava Puppet Theatre.