Traditional theatre is inconceivable without life performances and immediate contact with the audience, but is there any decent alternative? Is it possible to record a performance and still keep the spirit of theatre?
A play that is to be transformed into another medium must be “reinvented”: Czech National Theatre has taken the stage performance as the basis but trying to find a visual or acoustic expression that would communicate with the audience almost like if they were sitting in the theatre.
On the other hand, Czech National Theatre took it as an opportunity to break through the limits of the stage and create a riveting show outside the theatre building. This is the essence of the “Theatre Outside Theatre” project: new experience, new theatre.
A project of the Czech National Theatre Drama for the times of quarantine: Eyewitness, Jiří Havelka and others. Documentary anatomy of a mass murder
The play Eywitness, based on documentary evidence and formally inspired by the Ancient Greek drama, was originally scheduled for this winter. The play is based on a historical event that happened in 1945 and focuses on the phenomenon of an “eyewitness” – a person who comes to the stage to narrate what happened at the backstage, which is indeed the concept of the Ancient Greek drama.
The well documented event, called the “massacre on Swedish fortifications”, took place in the Přerov region just after the end of WWII. Two transports met at a railway station, one carrying Carpathian Germans, Hungarians, and Slovaks displaced to Sudetenland during WWII and returning to their hometowns of Dobšiná, Kežmarok, Gelnice and others, the other carrying soldiers of the 17th regiment of foot from Petržalka, former members of the 1st Czechoslovak Army Corps, under the command of Karol Pazúr. The meeting of the two groups, where several members from both sides were acquaintances, ended up in a mass murder of 265 returnees, most victims being women and children. The instigator was Pazúr and his order to “deal with the Essesmen” – and the witness (a silent and in many cases active one) were the village of Lověšice and its citizens. Another dramatic circumstance is the investigation of the incident and the numerous maintained eyewitness testimonies and other documents. Available are Pazúr’s testimonies, reports, petitions for pardon, but also a description of the events by the then mayor of the village of Lověšice, as well as by its citizens who participated in the ordered digging of a mass grave; we know who shot, we can read the statements of those who were travelling in the transport and survived, and perhaps even met the same soldiers again back home in Slovakia
The actors and actresses of the NT Drama as well as several guests have provided their faces and voices to dozens of witnesses, whose testimonies shall serve as an open playground for the audience. We have captured authentic witness testimonies on camera in the form similar to Skype or Zoom calls. We hope that the number of simultaneous, yet absolutely contradictory statements will attract the audience to watch them on their computers and try to reconstruct the story from the provided fragments.
An old story narrated through modern visual technologies, old documents brought to life – and still bringing the same horrific testimony…
Archive materials, that are part of the bonuses to the purchased film, are published with the kind permission of the Military Historical Archive in Bratislava, Slovakia.
A project of the Czech National Theatre Drama for the times of quarantine: For Beauty, Karel Hugo Hilar, Daniel Špinar. Let the theatre shape lives!
One of the most influential Czech theatre-makers, the playwright, dramaturge, stage director, critic and essayist Karel Hugo Hilar (1885–1935), born Karel Bakule, joined the National Theatre in Prague in 1921, at the height of his creative powers. As historians have put it, he entered “a very turbulent and hostile territory”. Hilar himself wrote: “The endeavour to attain style in modern theatre is an endeavour to make it turn inwards. The coming to understand that the art’s only objective is to create beauty”.
By no means a dry biographic interpretation, its aim is to conduct a live dialogue with those who have established the Czech theatre tradition. Let us try to imagine what it could be like to be in K. H. Hilar’s skin…
Official photos: Petr Neubert