Lost Illusions

Honoré de Balzac


Jan Mikulášek

LOST ILLUSIONS Theatre on the Balustrade director Jan Mikulášek’s take on a classic novel. The chief protagonist of Balzac’s story is Lucien Chardon, a talented poet from a small town who longs to make it in Paris. He experiences his first disappointment when he realises that social contacts and money are more important than talent to a writer’s career… The novel looks at society with a critical distance that makes it still very much alive as a work. Balzac’s great novel is handled by the director in a way that is new, surprising and thoroughly contemporary. The story, pared down and delivered in contemporary language, involves almost the entire company of the Theatre on the Balustrade, headed by Vojtěch Vondráček. Marek Cpin, the set and costume designer, uses neon to create a space full of parties, intellectual salons and the world of journalists.

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 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) and with Goose on a String Theatre (Don Quixote).

THEATRE ON THE BALUSTRADE The theatre’s long 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. 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 auteur theatre. Following a successful renovation, the Theatre on the Balustrade continued after 2017 to produce work that has met with acclaim from both audiences and critics. David Jařab’s production Macbeth – Too Much Blood was declared Production of the Year in 2017. Jan Mikulášek’s Woodcutters won the Josef Balvín Award, Production of the Year at the Divadelní noviny Awards, and Best Set Design of 2018 at the Theatre Critics’ Awards. In addition to intensive Czech hosting activity, the theatre has managed every season to undertake foreign tours all over Europe (Britain, Germany, France, Poland, Hungary) and the production The V+W Letters was shown in the Czech House in New York. The company has grown to include notable figures of the upcoming generation, director David Jařab has become a further in-house director, and the dramaturgical team has been strengthened by Petr Erbes and Boris Jedinák. In addition to showing four premieres, the theatre regularly has a rich programme of accompanying events, including debates and workshops. During the pandemic this grew to include podcasts, innovative recordings of productions and online activity in which the whole theatre took part.