Don Quixote

Miguel de Cervantes, Jan Mikulášek, Martin Sládeček


Jan Mikulášek

DON QUIXOTE Cervantes’ novel serves as a source of inspiration for investigating Don Quixote-type behaviour today. Tireless and tired debaters meet in a television studio, only for Cervantes’ characters and situations to emerge from their empty, seemingly intellectual ramblings. The figure of the knight is replaced by a worn-down television host who is losing the ground beneath his feet, as his dreams, desires and illusions gradually and increasingly find their way into the situation in the television studio. The alteration of images, achieved by rotating the semi-circular stage, gains in intensity and culminates in a mad and bloody whirl. Reality becomes mixed up with the surreal, icons with the everyday, the failures of intellectual elites with tilting at windmills – literary motifs appear in unexpected contexts and tones.

Jan Mikulášek does not copy Cervantes’ work, he is not dramatising the story of the original Don Quixote, but is interpreting it against the backdrop of today. It is in fact another Mikulášek-style essay on the subject of man in modern society, his consciousness and subconsciousness. The weight of the production is carried by Dušan Hřebíček, who plays the central role of the Host in keeping with the theme as a desperate and quixotic duel with the stupidities of reality, or rather with the reality of banality, and at the same time provides movingly desperate glimpses into the inner world of his character, persecuted by his unfulfilled desires or – maybe – just his unreal dreams, which keep him sane and sensible. At the end, though, his dreams collapse together with his world. The other actors create a varied mosaic, a parade of characters, but even in the minimal space available they manage to break through the caricatures of the professions depicted and to create a grotesque and absurd spectacle with a dimension that is almost existential. The set (Marek Cpin) is important; the action is set in the small space of a television studio, which unfolds and is then folded up again, falls apart and is put together. The characters thus find themselves in the impersonal space of some sort of display case, alone and empty inside.
– Sukces měsíce, Divadelní noviny

In this attempt at bringing the Don Quixote theme to the stage the production team and actors manage to create something expressive, chilling at times, but also entertaining. They have made a good move in setting it in the media, whose job it almost is to blur the difference between illusion and reality. The compelling stage form is the work of Mikulášek’s long-term colleague Marek Cpin.

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-folllowed alternative theatre, focusing mostly on auteur work for as wide an audience spectrum as possible. He was also the artistic head of the Petr Bezruč Theatre, and worked regularly with the Reduta theatre in Brno. In 2013, when the artistic head of the Reduta took over the leadership of the Theatre on the Balustrade in Prague, Mikulášek became director there. Productions directed by Mikulášek form the backbone of the theatre’s repertoire, and are regularly performed at domestic and foreign festivals (The V + W Letters, Europeana, Bourgeoisie, The Grey Seventies, The Stranger, The Golden Sixties, Hedonists, Hamlets, Obsession, AnderSen, The Woodcutters, Personas). Mikulášek’s directorial approach frequently involves the dramatisation of novels and other non-dramatic texts, original scripts and auteur theatre. He works with cutting, detail, musical contrapposto and parallel action. 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, content and associations on a given theme. He manages to materialise on stage entirely abstract, philosophical subjects. In addition to the Theatre on the Balustrade he works with other theatres, recently mostly with the National Theatre (The Cremator, Wonderful Land, I am the State).
GOOSE ON A STRING THEATRE A leading Brno theatre, founded in 1967. Its strong point has always been its irregular dramaturgy, making use of new themes in originally non-dramatic texts. The name of the theatre comes from a volume of experimental librettos by the Brno man of letters Jiří Mahen. The progressive theatre formed around the dramaturg Bořivoj Srba and the directors Eva Tálská, Zdeněk Pospíšil and Peter Scherhaufer. One of the country’s freest theatre groups, it managed to retain its courage and freshness despite its troubles under the previous regime. The “Stringers” performed in the House of Art, which was otherwise (and still is) an exhibition space. Those who started out with the theatre include such later stars of Czech theatre as Bolek Polívka, Miroslav Donutil, Jiří Bartoška, Karel Heřmánek and Jaromír Dulava. Its legendary productions include the premiere of Ballad for a Bandit by Miloš Štědroň and Milan Uhde, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart written for the theatre by Ludvík Kundera and based on Comenius’ work, and Reminiscences, based on Hrabal’s novel I Served the King of England (the production was in the theatre’s repertoire before the book was officially allowed out). The theatre maintained its good reputation after the revolution in 1989. Since 1993 it has been based in the House of the Lords of Fanal on Zelný trh, and is one of the best technically-equipped theatres in the country. After the revolution the theatre underwent several changes of artistic management, until director Vladimír Morávek took up the post of artistic head in 2005. He was replaced in January 2019 by Anna Davidová.