The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Homage to Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière

Jan Mikulášek - Dora Viceníková

REDUTA THEATRE, BRNO – THEATRE ON THE BALUSTRADE, PRAGUE

Jan Mikulášek

The production is a free adaptation of the style of Buñuel, the roots of which lie in surrealism. Although the production’s title refers to a specific film, the result is a hotchpotch of the motifs and themes by which Buñuel was fascinated and attracted. He unveiled new possibilities for film language and tried out different narrative structures. His works are shot through with the need for freedom, an intolerance of hypocrisy and of social convention, but also a fascination with the irrational, chance, a fascination with phenomena that go beyond ordinary human experience. Despite his fondness for everything inexplicable, however, Buñuel situates his fantasy against a background of concrete situations. By using a story to create the appearance of reality, he strengthens the imaginative element of his films. For what would remain of his dreams if they took place in an environment where everything is allowed from the start? It is the contrast between the world as we know it and the world whose mysterious laws we have yet to reveal that creates the specific atmosphere that is found in Buñuel’s works. His mystification included playing a game with the viewer, a desire to surprise him, to force him to look at his own portrait from a different angle to that from which he was used to seeing it. The audience of his films can be compared to the company in the film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which sits down to a feast without suspecting that it is on the stage of a theatre.

Direction: Jan Mikulášek
Adaptation: Jan Mikulášek, Dora Viceníková
Dramaturgy: Dora Viceníková
Set and costumes: Marek Cpin
Music selection: Jan Mikulášek
Cast: Petra Bučková, Jiří Vyorálek, Jan Hájek, Petr Jeništa, Magdaléna Sidonová, Anežka Kubátová, Leoš Noha, Miloslav König, Ladislav Hampl

Premiere: 7 June 2012 in the Reduta Theatre, renewed premiere 11 September 2013
Performance length: 80 minutes with no interval

Jan Mikulášek (b. 1978) – Born in Zlín, where both his parents were actors in the local theatre. After studying at the Academy Grammar School in Brno he gained a place at the Janáček Academy of Arts to study drama direction. He spent three years there, being taught first by Peter Scherhaufer and then Zbyněk Srba. After a successful production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Flight Across the Ocean he became the artistic head of the Brno theatre Polárka in 2001. Together with other young theatre artists he helped make Polárka a closely followed alternative theatre, focusing mostly on auteur work for as wide an audience spectrum as possible. He has also held the position of artistic head of the Petr Bezruč Theatre in Ostrava. In addition to directing, he actively devotes himself to composing music for the theatre. He is currently one of the most in-demand theatre directors – in addition to directing at the Reduta (Atomised, The V + W Correspondence, Europeana, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) he regularly works with the Petr Bezruč Theatre, the Goose on a String Theatre and the Theatre in Dlouhá. From this season on he is to become an in-house director at the Theatre on the Balustrade. Mikulášek’s direction is notably influenced by film approaches – in addition to having directed many adaptations of films, he also uses elements of film language on stage, such as cutting, detail, musical contrapposto and parallel plot unfolding. His other major source of inspiration is fine art, from which he “takes” an emphasis on mise-en-scene and lighting. Mikulášek is also well-versed in different genres, and inclines towards grotesque stylisation, something for which he finds space even in major dramas.

Reduta Theatre – The National Theatre Brno’s progressive theatre is the oldest theatre building in central Europe, a building in which tradition joins with modern theatre, history with the present. The repertoire consists mostly of Czech premieres in drama, opera and ballet, with progressive directors being invited to work with it. From 2007 to 2013 the theatre’s artistic head was Petr Štědroň and its dramaturg Dora Viceníková. The dramaturgy revolves largely around auteur work, dramatisation, original non – theatrical texts (The V + W Correspondence, Ouředník’s Europeana, Roché’s novel Jules et Jim, Graham’s novel Marnie, Juráček’s diaries The Golden Sixties etc.) and contemporary drama. The Reduta Theatre was nominated for an Alfréd Radok award for Theatre of the Year in 2011 and 2012. Theatre on the Balustrade – Numerous distinguished figures, including Václav Havel, Ivan Vyskočil, Jan Grossman, Ewald Schorm and Petr Lébl have passed through this soft Czech modern theatre, as the Theatre on the Balustrade is described by critics. Since its creation in 1958 the theatre has played a significant role in the country’s social and cultural context. It has created numerous productions that have represented the Czech Republic abroad, and has been home to a pleiad of notable actors. The Theatre on the Balustrade is a leader in current theatrical trends. With the advent of a new artistic leadership (Petr Štědroň, Dora Viceníková, Jan Mikulášek) the repertoire has gained six productions from the Reduta Theatre. They include The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, which has had a renewed premiere here under the title The Bourgeoisie.

If Buñuel’s films use discontinuity as a stylistic element, in Mikulášek’s productions it is continuity. Each scene has a culmination, a point, if you wish, and ends in a “film-style” fade out. However, one situation follows another at an ever faster pace, as if we were watching some sort of deranged madcap comedy that grows faster – and more drastic – with every sequence. Some scenes are truly on the borderline, crude to the point of tastelessness, one might say: for example, the scenes where urine is drunk and excrement eaten, or when a throw brought back from a foreign holiday – proper hand-made work – is actually a flag with a swastika. The Brno “Charm” is also full of violence, but surprisingly enough, the violent situations (and not just these) do not provoke disgust, but laughter. They are staged seriously, brutally, as it were, but we cannot take them seriously – they are too exaggerated, too “unreal”, and are essentially comic. This is because their driving force is that elementary theatrical (and film) resource of every good comedy: the gag! The joke is something quintessentially human, something that releases us from our traumas. And remember: almost all the gags in silent comedies – from Chaplin to Laurel and Hardy – are essentially cruel. Jan Kolář, Divadelní noviny

Mikulášek is inspired by Buňuel, but only in his basic ideas. Everything else is pure auteur theatre, vivid and with a clear statement to make. This is the sort of theatre that has a purpose, and if the more faint-hearted wilt at the sight of the destruction and tastelessness that goes on on stage, they should realise that the sight of the state of today’s society often provokes a gag reflex. Jana Machalická, Lidové noviny