Atomised

Michel Houellebecq

NATIONAL THEATRE BRNO

Directed by Jan Mikulášek

Jan Mikulášek, one of the most distinctive Czech directors of the young generation, stages this provocative French bestseller, in which Houellebecq, against the story of two half brothers – reserved scientist Michel and sexual outlaw Bruno – describes, cogently and with dry humour, the life of the middle generation. Critics agree that Atomised is a book “as fundamental for the late 20th century as Camus’ The Stranger and Sartre’s Nausea were to the Sixties.” The strength of the text lies in its hyperrealistic level, the author’s sense of detail and humour, the narrative gradation and the dourness with which he characterises the modern world. Once again, Mikulášek shows his unusual feeling for stage metaphor, the artistic side of a production and for the precise rhythm of a production, including choice of music.

Director: Jan Mikulášek

Translation: Alan Beguivin

Dramatisation: Jan Mikulášek and Dora Viceníková

Dramaturgy: Dora Viceníková

Set and costumes: Marek Cpin

Music and music selection: Jan Mikulášek

Cast:

Bruno - Jiří Vyorálek (guest)

Michel - Václav Vašák

Christianne - Eva Novotná

Annabelle - Petra Bučková (guest)

Desplechin, a gynaecologist - Vladimír Krátký

Doctor, yogini - Zuzana Ščerbová

Adjele, nurse - Simona Zmrzlá (guest)

Sophie, nurse - Marie Jansová (guest)

Masseur, pseudointellectual - Jiří Kniha (guest)

Gravedigger, assistant, doctor - Slávek Bílský (guest)

Youth, Ben - Ondřej Kokorský (guest)

 

Premiere 26 February 2010

The performance lasts 2 hours 10 minutes, with interval

This production is part of the project “The Future of European Drama Theatre – Tradition and Experiment in the Visegrad Area”.

Atomised – This French bestseller 1998 had the effect of a time bomb when it first appeared in 1998. It is a survey of the development of the morals and causes of contemporary individualism. Against the story of two stepbrothers – the dry scientist Michel, and sexual outlaw Bruno – it captures, succinctly and with dry humour, the life of the middle generation. The strength of the work lies above all in its hyperrealistic nature, the author’s sense of detail and humour, the narrative gradation and the tenacity with which it caricatures the modern-day world. Critics agree that Atomised is a fundamental book for the end of the twentieth century, in the same way that Camus’ The Outsider was, or Sartre’s Nausea for the sixties.

 

Atomised is not primarily a scandalous or nihilistic work, as its critics would like to have it. It is just as much a lament for dry eyes, a period testimony, and it does not lack humour.

Jan Němec, Respekt

 

The production is daring in its use of erotic motifs, including masturbation, inventive in its transposition of complex thoughts and situations into theatrical language, and consistent in its respect for the source text. It uses maximum irony, acerbity and above all a large number of social and cultural references (…) Jiří Vyorálek as Brno is cynical, wild and cruel. At the same time he is painfully touching, humanely gentle and intellectually witty. He leads the audience through daring situations and visions, until they find themselves looking down into an abyss of sex, human existence and death.

Vladimír Hulec, E15

 

What Mikulášek and Viceníková take above all from the source text are the cocoons of kindness, which they then develop. As a result, there is more to the overall story than inconclusiveness and hopelessness. This is also because they strip Atomised of most of its vulgarities, violence and lascivity. They thus distance themselves from Houellebecq’s aim of disgusting us as much as possible: people, sex, life.. It is as if in the Reduta they had much more understanding for all of this. Mikulášek’s humorous and tragic style may thus be just as clear in labelling the diseases of our civilisation, but it is not cynical derision. It is more of a warning, translated by means of empathy.

Josef Dubec, Svět a divadlo

 

Jan Mikulášek ( born1978) – Mikulášek comes from a family with strong artistic roots. Previously the artistic head of the Brno children’s theatre, Polarka, and of Ostrava’s Petr Bezruč Theatre, he is now a freelance director. He regularly works with the National Theatre of Moravia and Silesia, the Petr Bezruč Theatre and other Moravian theatres (Reduta Theatre, Goose on a String (Husa na provázku). Mikulášek’s directing style is noticeably influenced by film – not only do his productions include a large number of adaptations from film, but they also feature elements of film language on stage. He uses editing, detail, musical counterpoint and the parallel development of action. His second clear source of inspiration is fine art, from which he takes an emphasis on careful stage composition and lighting. Jan Mikulášek is also an expert in genres. He inclines towards grotesque stylisation, finding space for it in large productions as well as small ones. However, it is difficult to find a theme that permeates all his productions, since his choice of titles includes both classical drama (Macbeth, Hamlet, Hedda Gabler, Blood Wedding, Three Sisters) and popular pieces (Wild at Heart, Four Murders are Enough, Darling, The Phantom of Morrisville). Nevertheless, his productions also display a particularly pessimistic, inconclusive picture of the world. Despite the lively buzz on stage and the exaggeration, they are shot through with melancholy and the loss of illusions.

 

Divadlo Reduta – The National Theatre Brno’s progressive stage is housed in the oldest theatre building in central Europe, in which tradition combines with modern theatre, history with today. The repertoire consists mostly of premieres of new Czech dramas, operas and ballets, with progressive directors being invited to work with it (J. A. Pitinský, Arnošt Goldflam, Jiří Pokorný, Jan Mikulášek, Dodo Gombár etc.). Every autumn it hosts the Redfest festival, featuring Czech and foreign chamber theatre dramas, and at the end of January a multi-genre evening called The Masked Ball, or Mozart at the Reduta, which shows Mozart in all types of forms, from art installations to concerts, DJ work to opera arias. The Reduta Theatre also regularly holds exhibitions, concerts, lectures and so on. A theatre critic has written of the theatre: “The Reduta is like an absinthe bar on the theatrical map of Brno, a place that serves particularly strong drinks. Not everyone can take it, but many people seek it out. It is not for a cossetted or snobbish clientele, spoiled by sickly sweet lemonade and meringues or utterly simple comedies. Anyone in search of emotional wrestling, however, should by a season ticket for the Reduta.”