A production by a young director who has gained much critical acclaim in recent years. The play, by a contemporary German playwright, portrays the flip side of charity events in a deliberately “politically incorrect” way. Pácl stages it as a cabaret with musical numbers, on the boundary of black humour. His Benefit looks at things that are usually taboo, and also serves as a sharp reminder that the false, artificial and ridiculous features that charitable events sometimes take on should not hide the fact that they are genuinely needed.
Director: Štěpán Pácl
Translation: Michal Kotrouš
Dramaturgy: Tereza Marečková
Music: Jakub Kudláč
Set and Costumes: Tereza Beranová
Cast: Iva Pazderková, Eliška Nezvalová / Andrea Černá, Ondřej Brousek, David Hák, Jiří Racek
Czech premiere 9 October 2009
The performance lasts 90 minutes, with no interval
This production is part of the project “Future of the European Drama Theatre – Tradition and Experiment in the Visegrad Area”.
Benefit – Everyone Rescues an African – This play by actor, director and playwright Ingrid Lausund is about a fictitious charitable project; a tragicomedy about global responsibility, it takes the form of a rehearsal for a benefit evening. Against this framework, the author looks at issues including the meaning of aid, the relationship of one person to others, and the probing of conscience. Lausund is also not afraid to touch the borders of incorrectness, relativising, through irony and humour, the philosophy of Western civilisation.
Benefit is really a morality play – although it never rebukes, it just worms its way under the skin. With self-irony, black humour, harshness and courage it touches on things that are usually taboo. The ambiguous and disturbing mixture of emotions provoked by this charity cabaret, with its excellent musical numbers, is difficult to shake off. Long after it ends, you can still see the “professionally” changing face of Iva Pazderková, and you realise how fine a line there is between authentic reaction and social mask. How easily an appeal to sympathy can change into self-caricature.
Marie Reslová, Hospodářské noviny
Under Pácl’s direction, the five young actors wittily capture the backstage, authentic atmosphere of a rehearsal for a benefit evening, with which they are trying to raise money to build a school in Ethiopia. Pácl is not afraid to focus on the insincere, superficial, artificial elements of this sort of event. Never, however, does he descend into caricature or mere parody. This is because he knows how to move precisely on the border of black humour and the reality that reminds us that hunger and poverty are not in fact clichés in part of the world. Moreover, despite his emphasis on the comic angle, Pácl definitely does not present us with a one-dimensional appeal.
Jana Paterová, Lidové noviny
Lausund is the sort of playwright who maps out, with extreme clear-sightedness, our contemporary life in all its ambiguity. After Slipped Disc and Hystericon, Benefit – Everyone Rescues an African is her third play to have been seen in the Czech Republic. The principle of theatre in theatre is not unusual; nevertheless, the combination of the theatrical principle with a concrete charitable event is definitely new. The uncommon form makes an appeal to audiences, who after the production should find themselves making voluntary contributions to charity.
Jana Soprová, Český rozhlas
Director Štěpán Pácl and the actors throw themselves, with enchanting self-reflection, into a witty striptease of the unique phenomenon that is the actor’s ego (…). For all the fun that is poked with gusto at the narcissism of actors, however, the deeper meaning and the apparent meaning of the whole charade is not lost. This is the essentially unsolvable contradiction between the real problems of the third world, and the impossibility of finding an effective solution to them. Is it better to push aside this contradiction cynically, or to buy ourselves pardons and do what little we can to help?
Richard Erml, Divadelní noviny
Štěpán Pácl (born 1982) – This representative of the youngest generation of Czech directors studied drama direction at DAMU, gaining an Alfréd Radok Award in 2008 for Talent of the Year. Long-term colleagues with whom he has worked include dramaturg Tereza Marečková and composer Jakub Kudláč. Pácl has directed for both chamber and large-scale theatres throughout the Czech Republic, with a style typically based on a thorough reading of the text and precise leadership of the actors. He graduated with a production of Lenka Lagronová’s Kingdom, and his other productions have included Topol’s End of Carnival in the Disk theatre, Tyl’s Drahomíra, or Blood Christening in the National Theatre of Moravia and Silesia, and Ibsen’s Brand/Fire in the Preslovka in Prague. Marie Reslová has written of Pácl: “Štěpán Pácl is one of the up-and-coming generation of directors, who perceive, with utter naturalness, theatre as a way of understanding the world.”
Na Fidlovačce Theatre – Construction of the theatre started in 1921, and it was ceremonially opened on 5 November 1921 as the Tyl Theatre. During its existence it has changed its name several times, being known from 1963 to 1978 as the Nusle Musical Theatre. The theatre’s building then lay empty and decaying until 1995, when the Fidlovačka Foundation was set up to renovate it. With its help, the theatre was rediscovered, and reopened on 28 October 1998 with a production of Josef Kajetán Tyl’s Fidlovačka. The present-day theatre does not receive state financing. Comprising a main stage and a chamber stage, it also does not have a fixed company of actors – instead, actors are taken on for a particular production. Nevertheless, over past seasons an established group of actors has formed around the theatre, and the repertoire takes them into account. The theatre’s most successful production remains the American musical Fiddler on the Roof, which has been in the repertoire for over ten years. The Na Fidlovačce theatre’s permanent manager is Tomáš Töpfer, who is also an actor and director. Since January 2003 its artistic head has been director Juraj Deák.