ZAHRADNÍČEK “For all mine is yours, and all yours is mine, and you and I are one.”
Jan Zahradníček (1905–1960; one of the most significant Czech Catholic poets, journalist, translator and writer) and his wife Marie were married for 15 years, of which he spent 9 in a communist labour camp. After his arrest in 1951 Marie and their three children were moved out of their flat, ending up on a state farm with no water, electricity or heating. When Zahradníček was in prison, their two daughters died of mushroom poisoning. He was allowed out to go to their funeral, the understanding being that he would not have to return; he was taken back to prison all the same. Marie nevertheless managed to become pregnant for a fourth time, but Jan did not see his fourth child until the child was three. Four months later, Jan died. Nine years of long-distance marriage, nine years of fatherhood by correspondence, nine years of love expressed on paper. And between the lines the struggle to survive, pain and reconciliation. The production was created on the 115th anniversary of the poet’s birth.
The letters of Jan Zahradníček are reminiscent of Havel’s Letters to Olga, not only in the outer similarity of the situation in which one of the couple is unjustly imprisoned and the other focuses a large amount of strength on supporting him, living with him despite the fact that they are separated by a prison wall. Marie’s strength and tools were different from Olga’s, but they are connected by their principled natures and their ability to step into a man’s role. Nebeský has conceived the production as an intimate dialogue between Marie and Jan (Saša Rašilov) that takes place at their kitchen table. To one side the table, however, is attached a prison wall, and behind it the poet sits for most of the time on a small chair. In the introduction the musician Ladislav Kozderka appears before the audience; later his trumpet solo is heard, searing the soul like the tragedy of the fates of the two characters. Kozderka reads out the charges against Zahradníček, while Marie saws wood on the kitchen table that also serves as a workbench. The whole time she will then spend cooking lunch for Jan, who is coming home after nine years in prison. She will chop vegetables, throw them into the bubbling pot and talk with a light Moravian accent, describing in a simple and matter-of-fact way how she fell in love, how she lived and how she resisted fate.
– JANA MACHALICKÁ, lidovky.cz
Recently it has been characteristic of Lucie Trmíková’s acting that at tense moments she moves from acting in role to a specific, expressive body art, with which she “embodies” the inner reactions of her characters. (…) These emotionally-taut scenes, above all the scene concerning the death of her two daughters, poisoned by mushrooms, are among the climaxes of the production. Over the speakers the purring and chattering of infants can be heard, as if from a painful memory, the woman twitches on the floor, and in the end she wraps herself in a waxed linen table cloth, shrouds herself in it. It is as if the grief for which there are no words cannot be expressed otherwise. (…) It is not for four long years that Jan comes after an amnesty. He is met by Marie, covered in flowers – is this an embodiment of the lyricism of the poet’s letters from prison? In any case it is a detail typical of Nebeský, or rather an immense small thing. Like the heart “on batteries”, but also the rite of fleeting earthly happiness, when Jan and Marie sit down together at the table and eat the soup she has made. The closing image, a pieta, grows into a monument: the dead Jan lies on a table, like Christ in his suffering and death, while Marie stands by him in the mask of a black Madonna, similar to Christ’s mother in her pain.
– JOSEF MLEJNEK, Divadelní noviny
The play, in spite of its content, is not a mournful play, but a story of ancient parameters, which ends in a catharsis so unequivocal that not even a cynic would deny feeling silent respect.
– ALENA SCHEINOSTOVÁ
JAN NEBESKÝ (1953) Czech theatre director and teacher. Studied direction at DAMU in Prague. His direction of Ernst Jandl’s Aus der Fremde at Prague’s Theatre on the Balustrade won an Alfréd Radok award for Production of the Year in 2004. Since 2002, when the Divadlo Komedie company was dissolved, Jan Nebeský has been freelance, working at the Studio Hrdinů, the National Theatre and other Prague theatres (he also works with the company 420PEOPLE and Studio DAMÚZA). Since 2004 he has also taught directing at the DAMU theatre faculty. In 2011 he, Lucie Trmíková and David Prachař founded the civic association JEDL, under which independent projects are created, combining various kinds of art (theatre, dance, music, fine art). Jan Nebeský has an exceptional stage imagination, finding his way to the content of texts with the aid of artistic symbols, absurd short cuts, and stylised, expressive acting. His productions are formed by a pleiad of unexpected ideas, a specific atmosphere and style. Nebeský’s theatre uses layer upon layer of meaning, runs into free association, combines themes in a collage-like way and works with the set, text and actors with unusual imagination.
JEDL David Prachař, Lucie Trmíková and Jan Nebeský are artists and friends who in 2011 founded the JEDL association as a platform for independent auteur-style theatre. They first met in the Činoherní klub, brought together by an ancient play, and 26 years later they were once again connected by an ancient theme in a production of Medea. The production represented something typical of JEDL: the reshaping of original literary works through actor and script writer Lucie Trmíková’s auteur-style writing, and the connection of theatre with all other areas of art, including painting, sculpture and music. In the 2018/2019 season JEDL has performed a free trilogy looking at the relationship between a man and a woman from various points of view: the extreme in Medea, meditation in The Waste Land and humility in Private Confessions.