The Beggar’s Opera

Václav Havel

CITY THEATRE BRNO

Hana Burešová

THE BEGGAR’S OPERA is rightly considered to be the play of Havel’s that is most attractive to audiences. It is based on the play of the same name by John Gay, which also inspired the world-famous adaptation by Brecht and Weill, in which the heads of two rival criminal gangs, Macheath and Peachum, are engaged in a struggle for power over the London underworld. The uniqueness of Havel’s adaptation lies in his unsentimental look at the mafia-like practices of the leaders of the London underworld (and, by extension, the leaders of the world). The principle of unscrupulousness and lies is here taken to absurdity: everyone is lying to everyone else, and everyone betrays everyone else. No one is who he or she seems to be. The theme is heightened by the language, which is comically at odds with the characters: rogues, thieves and prostitutes express themselves in a highly cultivated way, like perfect gentlemen and at the same time experts on psychology, sociology, ethics and so on; with relentless logic they pile up arguments for their viewpoints, as well as for possible changes of these viewpoints, and in a deftly manipulative way they explain their base deeds and failures. The truth does not prevail, because everyone here has their own truth, and even that is only valid when it pays off. Idealism is laughable and must necessarily die where pragmatic cynicism prevails under all circumstances.

In this production, which unlike some others finds Havel a breeze, everything is thoroughly “admitted”; live music, theatre within theatre, prompting as first aid during drowning in a difficult dramatic score, entertainment of the kind that has entered our subconsciousness and which we now perversely allow even in the National Theatre, and the overall easy degeneracy that befits the play, the play on which it is based and its contemporary relevance for our putrid Babišland.
– VLADIMÍR JUST, Divadelní noviny, Inscenace roku

The director does not make Havel’s play a literal morality play or an ethical satire. On the contrary, with the use of a naive and direct acting style, a vaudeville-style set and obvious clichés it thrusts in front of the public a ridiculous picture, showing the way that things function when crime and the law are such ostentatiously and genteelly good friends. The resulting effortlessly biting and fantastically breezy impression is heightened in this hundred and fifty-minute long evening by all the elements of the set.
– LUBOŠ MAREČEK, Lidové noviny

After the antihero Macheath of Krob’s 1995 production I assumed that no one during my lifetime would outdo Ladislav Smoljak: Brno’s Petr Štěpán, although completely different and at the same time himself, has, I think, equalled that unforgettable creation.
– LUBOŠ MAREČEK, Lidové noviny

HANA BUREŠOVÁ (1959) Since 1996 a member of the artistic management of the Theatre in Dlouhá, together with her dramaturg Štěpán Otčenášek. She has also guest directed in other theatres (National Theatre, Vinohrady Theatre, Theatre on the Balustrade, Drama Studio in Ústí nad Labem, Viola, the Marin Držić Theatre in Dubrovník, and regularly at the Brno City Theatre and the Ungelt Theatre). She graduated in drama direction at the DAMU theatre school in Prague, directing her first productions in the Club in Řeznická in Prague under the label DDT (Theatre Creation Cooperative). In 1988–1992 she worked at the Central Bohemian Theatre of Kladno and Mladá Boleslav, and from 1992–1995 at the Divadlo Labyrint in Prague. Her first productions already showed considerable theatricality and musicality. She makes use of this musicality above all in playful adaptations of operettas and operas for actors: Mam´zelle Nitouche, The Barber of Seville, The Stone Guest. In addition to comedies, her repertoire has from the beginning also contained serious plays (Play Strindberg, End of Masopust, Phaedra, Electra). During over a quarter of a century of theatre work she has thus created a distinctive personal style, and by alternating repertoire components she has successfully avoided stereotype. She has staged over sixty productions, three times winning an Alfréd Radok award for the Best Production of the Year (Don Juan and Faust, The Death of Paul I, The Break of Noon) and once a Theatre Critics’ Award for the best production of the year (The Lantern). Her productions of Calderón’s play The Surgeon of his Honour and Klíma’s Human Tragicomedy were nominated for the latter award.

BRNO CITY THEATRE The theatre was founded in May 1945 by a group of young theatre artists headed by the twenty-five-year old director Milan Pásek as the Free Theatre, subsequently undergoing several more changes of name. It has borne its current name since 1993, is funded by the city of Brno. Many significant figures have been involved in the theatre’s history, including Rudolf Walter, Libor Pleva, Antonín Kurš, Jan Fišer and Milan Pásek. Since 1992 the theatre has been headed by Stanislav Moša, the current director and artistic head of the drama department. Under his leadership the theatre fundamentally changed artistic direction, and as well as drama started to focus on good-quality musical theatre, for which a new stage was built in the rear part of the existing theatre in 2004. The theatre has performed in Belgium, Denmark, France, Croatia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.