PERSONAS Ingmar Bergman, the creator of over 40 films and more than 120 theatre productions, would have been a hundred last year. A number of productions appeared last year here in connection with the anniversary, and this year’s festival includes two Bergman-related works – Personas and Private Confessions. Personas is a meeting of characters from four of Bergman’s films (Scenes from a Marriage, Autumn Sonata, Persona, Hour of the Wolf), giving rise to unexpected connections and meanings. The set is an unspecified apartment, and the close-packed drama is performed by eight actors. With each new tenant comes a new story, and there is an alternation of faces, fates, stories and moods.The thickened psychological dramas are complemented, relieved or simply commented on by mostly Czech pop songs, which shift the interpretation of Bergman on to a more general level.
Mikulášek’s theatre is aesthetically dazzling. This is in large part due to art designer Marek Cpin, a master in the use of materials that evoke tangible feelings, even from the auditorium. The set and costumes are on a spectrum of beige and sand colours, with traces of white and a contrasting hard and sinister black. The atmosphere evokes sandy beaches and a frightening dream array of acute, “vampiric” symbols – historicising costumes, dishevelled wigs and white faces. Elegance and spirit is also characteristic of the actors at na Zábradlí, however. Beautiful and interesting women, expressive men, personalities with a sense of of humour, intellectual vision and coordination that are entertaining to observe. Mikulášek leads them to a sculptural stylisation and symbolising gestures, with which Cpin’s costumes chime beautifully – and the director does it with a sense of bodily expression and situation.
– Marie Reslová, Aktuálně.cz
Persona, with Jana Plodková as the nurse Alma and Magda Sidonova as the actress Elizabeth, is a psychologically-thorough, compact clash. The actresses are economical in their use of expressive means and their connections and differences are reflected in the directorial imagination. Here Mikulášek is on one hand most close to Bergman, while on the other he has found an optimum position from which to show how theatre can refresh what is now largely artistic material.
– Jana Machalická, Lidové noviny
Mikulášek works with Bergman’s screenplays and film stories in the spirit of his grotesque existential style. Together with set designer Marek Cpin he has enclosed the figures in a wooden-clad cube: the cramped nature of this austere Scandinavian space seems to suggest that each hero is a prisoner of his or her own soul. The title Personas is in this sense highly apposite – under the orderly surface (mask) of the protagonists there rages a private hell that every so often breaks through to the surface in the form of a deranged grimace or a bestially-twisted body. Under the pressure of long-suppressed emotions, people change into monsters. Mikuláš supports the horror-like atmosphere of these moments with shadow play and restless, oppressive music. He works with irony much more than Bergman…
– Petra Zachatá, Divadelní noviny
Mikulášek’s abbreviation presents Bergman in the whole breadth of his work and personality. The demonic nature of death gradates on stage until it reaches the grotesqueness of zombie-like grimaces, and the tragedy is accompanied by melodically-twisted banal pop. When, however, the subtle Barbora Bočková in the role of the emotionally-challenged Eva reacts to the alibisms of Dita Kaplanová with an overwrought Mercury-like Mama, it gives you goose pimples.
– Veronika Boušová, Divadelní noviny
JAN MIKULÁŠEK (1978) After studying drama direction at the Janáček Academy of Musical Arts, which he did not finish, he worked as the artistic head of the Brno theatre Polárka. 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 was also the artistic head of the Divadlo Petra Bezruče, and worked regularly with the Reduta theatre in Brno. In 2013, when the artistic head of the Reduta took over the leadership of the Divadlo Na Zábradlí in Prague, Mikulášek became director there. The theatre currently has the following productions by Mikulášek in its repertoire, regularly performed at both domestic and foreign festivals: The V + W Correspondence, Europeana, Bourgeoisie, The Grey Seventies, Foreigner, The Golden Sixties, Hedonists, Hamlet, Obsession, AnderSen, Woodcutters…. Mikulášek's directorial approach frequently involves the dramatisation of novels, original scripts and auteur theatre. He works with cutting, detail, musical contrapposto and parallel plots. His other major source of inspiration is fine art, from which he “borrows” an emphasis on mise-en-scene and lighting. A marked feature of his work is the way in which he plays with the meaning of speeches, context and associations on a given theme. He manages to materialise on stage entirely abstract, philosophical subjects. As well as the Divadlo Na zábradli, he works with other theatres, recently with the National Theatre in particular (The Cremator, Maryša, Night Work)
NA ZÁBRADLÍ THEATRE The theatre's year tradition has involved a number of distinguished figures, with those who have passed through the theatre including Václav Havel, Ivan Vyskočil, Jan Grossman, Evald Schorm and Petr Lébl. Since its creation the Theatre on the Balustrade 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 is home to a pleiad of notable actors. “During its existence, the Theatre on the Balustrade has gone through a number of periods that shaped and anticipated the form of Czech theatre. In addition, it has gone through a number of moments of crisis and conflict. At practically no time in its dynamic history, however, has it gone through a period of prolonged artistic attenuation. I would like to think that this is conencted with the genius loci of this Prague theatre,” Martina Musilová has written. Since the 2013/2014 season the theatre has been headed by Petr Štědroň, Dora Viceníková and Jan Mikulášek, who are inclined towards irregular dramaturgy and author theatre. The theatre is a frequent guest at other Czech and above all foreign theatres and festivals – it regularly visits Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, but has also performed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Colombia, the US and other countries.