In the single day over the course of which the action takes place, Sorokin carefully constructs, in terrifyingly utopian form, a Russian empire of the not-too-distant future. The country is totally isolated from the outside world, its only supplier is China, and the economy is kept afloat purely through the export of oil and gas. In the shops Russians can choose from two kinds of each product, since, as Sorokin writes, “when people have two to choose from, and not three or thirty three, they feel internal contentment. And when people are internally contented, you can do great things with them.” In the novel’s stage adaptation, the audience witnesses a bizarre entertainment full of grotesque scenes, opera, ballet and comedy numbers, the narration of bloodcurdling stories, the performance of religious rituals and drug-induced ecstasies. Gradually, however, it grows into a march-past of cruelties and a demonstration of absolute power that cannot be challenged. What began with a morning wash and steam bath ends with the water grown cold and a lifeless body floating in it, with a dog’s head… Michal Zahálka has written of “Day of the Oprichnik” that “Sorokin has described in an interview that, since the book was published seven years ago, it is seen in Russia as more and more of a prophecy, and that developments in the country are proving him more and more right. Those of us who know Russia only through newspaper articles can see the theatre form of Day of the Oprichnik in a more general way: as a reminder that freedom is always unstable, and needs to be won again and again. That if someone is above the law, it tends to be a bad thing.”
Studio of Heroes, Prague
Translation: Libor Dvořák
Direction and set: Kamila Polívková
Dramaturgy: Jan Horák
Music and music rehearsal: Ivan Acher
Assistant set designer: Andrijana Trpković
Cast: Karel Dobrý and Vanda Šípová, Eva Dryjová, Kateřina Eliášová, Zdeňka Herdová, Markéta Hlinovská, Anna Hrnečková, Pavel Jánský, Hana Jansová, Iveta Jiříčková, Madlen Komárová, Lucie Křápková, Ivana Myšková, Dana Poláková, Vladimír Polívka, Anna Polívková, Petr Šmíd, Jiří Štrébl, Kamil Valšík
Czech premiere 7 February 2013
Kamila Polívková (1975) – Set designer, costume designer and director. She has created dozens of sets for both Czech and foreign productions, many of which have received a number of awards and have appeared at major Czech and foreign festivals. In 2009 her set for The Lion Cub was nominated for an Alfréd Radok award in the set design category, and in 2010 she was nominated in the Talent of the Year category for her direction of Ödön von Horváth’s play Faith, Hope and Charity (both in the Comedy Theatre 2002 – 2012). She works in theatres in both the Czech and German – speaking cultural field (Divadlo Komedie 2006 – 2012, National Theatre, Prague, Deutsches Theater Berlin, Staatsschauspiel Dresden, Residenztheater München, Schauspielhaus Hamburg a Zürich, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus and others). Her costumes for the play The Garbage, the City and Death, directed by Jan Hřebejk, was nominated for a Czech Lion in 2012. Her directorial work includes: Thomas Brussig: Heroes Like Us (Comedy Theatre 2009), Ödön von Horváth: Garbage, the City and Death (Comedy Theatre 2010), Katharina Schmitt: SAM (Comedy Theatre 2012), Vladimir Sorokin: Day of the Oprichnik (Studio of Heroes 2013).
Studio of Heroes – Created in autumn 2012 in a space in the basement of the Veletržní Palace modern art gallery, the theatre has a clear dramaturgical focus and works with an interesting range of people. Directors include Kamila Polívková, Katharina Schmitt and the directorial duo Jan Horák and Michal Pěchouček. The theatre focuses on auteur-style, directorial projects with an emphasis on cooperation between Czech and foreign theatre artists, and on work that crosses boundaries of genre and field. In formal terms, Studio of Heroes’ productions are drama with an accent on the experimental and visual art side.
Day of the Oprichnik was labelled Success of the Month by the editorial staff of Divadelní noviny: “Sorokin’s brilliant satire has been given an exceptionally sensitive theatrical interpretation, with the director focusing on the wizardry of the actor in the title role. Sorokin’s text is a searing reflection on the future of Putinesque absolutism, and Karel Dobrý has not lent, but given his all to this icy grotesque: the body and language of a Russian superman who radiates dread and horror, but also the catharsis of total revelation. Studio of Heroes has here a production that will conquer foreign festivals.”
Day of the Oprichnik is sensitively designed and directed by Kamila Polívková, who has gone for minimalist art design, consisting above all of a bath, an animal mask and the specific atmosphere of the Studio of Heroes space, in the basement of the Veletržní Palace. The production is dominated by Karel Dobrý. The combination of strict concentration and technically precise execution with considerable charisma makes for an incredible spectacle. Vojtěch Varyš, Týden
By selecting carefully from the novel, Polívková has managed to extract a text that, while still taking place against a Russian background, gives the characters a generalised, universal nature. This is helped by Karel Dobrý’s breathtaking performance in the role of the oprichnik Pařez, who out of the pure Russian mercilessness embodied in the ruler’s personal guard has managed to create a parade of the absurdity of cruelty and power in the hands of any governing apparatus. The scene in which Pařez drowns and rapes the wife of an enemy of the state (Dana Poláková) in the bath was so intense that more than one audience member felt the need to stand up for the wretched woman. Dominik Melichar, Divadelní noviny