Michel Houellebecq


Natália Deáková

SEROTONIN is a transmitter of nerve impulses that is contained in blood platelets, and a lack of it causes depression and mood disorders. It is also the title of another gloomy book by French writer Michel Houellebecq, now adapted by MeetFactory Theatre. This is the third time that Houellebecq’s work has appeared on the Czech stage – ten years ago Jan Mikulášek directed Atomised at Brno’s Reduta (and at the Pilsen festival in 2010), while Platform, directed by Lucie Málková, has been shown by MeetFactory theatre. The hero of Serotonin, 36-year-old Florent-Claude, is physically healthy, but nevertheless about to die. He realises that he has made a mistake in life in failing to understand that relationships with partners make different demands on a person than does the choice of hummus in a supermarket. He finds himself in an acute emptiness that cannot be dispelled in the ways that used to work: luxury goods, intoxicating substances, exotic destinations or perverse sex. He breaks off all his work and personal relationships overnight. He stages several real and phantasmagorical meetings with his former partners and with himself, so that he can give himself up entirely to his loneliness and stumble towards the unavoidable conclusion. The pain that he meanwhile experiences is terrible, but seems to be unavoidable and cathartic. The monologue of the production is broken by speeches by two former girlfriends, a long-ago friend and the presence of a computer with its machine logic.

“ Jan Hájek is unbelievably convincing in the role of the bored fortysomething Florent-Claude. He shows all the disdain he has for his surroundings with the self-confessed awareness that he deserves entirely the same disdain from the people he is ridiculing. DramaturgMatěj Samec and director Natália Deáková could not have chosen a better actor for the role.
——JAN H. VITVAR, Respekt

“ Surprisingly, this concentrated dramatised extract from Houllebecq’s novel makes the material more “user friendly“. It thus unwittingly also reveals that the attraction of Houellebecq’s style is based on the layering and interweaving of life’s innumerable unpleasantnesses and ways of looking at them.

“ Although the atmosphere of the narration is in places desperate, Hájek approaches it with a cunning distance, making his repellent misanthrope into a less irritating commentator. If the hero makes fun of everything and everyone (for example the world of militant pancake places and alternative bars), Hájek with almost tangible irony makes fun of his character.
——ANEŽKA PONDĚLÍČKOVÁ, Divadelní noviny

NATÁLIA DEÁKOVÁ (1981) Studied theatre direction from the drama faculty of DAMU. In January 2005 she became the artistic head of the Drama Studio in Ústí nad Labem. After taking maternity leave, she returned as an in-house director. During her six years at the theatre, her most memorable productions were that of Mahen’s Jánošík, How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel, and Alois Nebel, based on the comic book by Jaroslav Rudiš and Jaromír Švejdík. In 2012 she started to work as a director at Czech Radio in Prague, where her successes include second place in the drama category at the Prix Bohemia in 2013 (Zeller: Conversations with Astronauts). From 2013–2019 she was head of the drama section of the J. K. Tyl Theatre, where her successful productions included Camus’ Caligula and Mann’s Mephisto, as well as Burnt By the Sun and August in Osage County. She has also guest directed at the National Theatre in Brno, the Klicpera Theatre in Hradec Králové, the Central Bohemian Theatre in Kladno, the Vinohrady Theatre, Švanda Theatre, Divadlo Letí, Divadlo Komedie and Meetfactory in Prague. As a director she prefers texts that resound with the problems of contemporary society – above all the question of where evil in a person comes from, and what allows it to grow. Another notable theme in her work is the search for an individual’s identity in the inconsistency of the contemporary world.

MEETFACTORY is a non-profit international contemporary arts centre, founded in 2001 by visual artist David Černý. The 2002 floods meant the centre had to leave its original premises in Prague’s Holešovice district, and the project was resurrected three years later in an industrial building in Smichov, in a specific space between a main road and a busy railway line. After extensive renovation, the centre opened in 2007 with a programme covering fine art, theatre and music, as well as interdisciplinary and experimental platforms. The international residence programme is the largest Czech studio programme for foreign artists. MeetFactory has fifteen studios, which every year are used by over thirty visual artists, curators, musicians, theatre directors and writers. MeetFactory’s long-term planning is approved by an administrative board of which the members are visual artist David Černý, musician David Koller and director Alice Nellis.