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SLOVAKIAN NATIONAL THEATRE

Hollyroth ()

Rastislav Ballek

Direction Rastislav Ballek
Freely inspired by motifs in Vojtěch Mihálik's collection of poems, The Reverend Gentleman of Madunice
Dramaturgy Peter Pavlac
Set and costumes Jozef Ciller
Music Martin Ožvold

With
Holly / Roth Robert Roth

Premiere 16 September 2009

The performance lasts 1 hour 15 minutes with no interval

Hollyroth – The production traces the ignominious fate of the poor clergyman, poet and early Slovak nationalist Ján Hollý (1785-1849), whose name is linked with Anton Bernolák's attempt to create a standardised Slovak language. Hollý's life is full of tragic moments and attractive paradoxes. "The production is divided into two parts. The first is a breathtaking monologue by Ján Hollý on his life, which the creators have put together from Hollý's correspondence, while the second part consists of the poem Svätopluk. The director has helped to make the text easier to understand and follow through the use of theatrically-attractive images, in which even on second viewing further layers of significance and connections may be found," Dária Fehérová has written. Director and author Rastislav Ballek's long-lasting interest in figures from Slovak history (Tiso, Vajanský, Dohnány etc.) is here combined to great effect with Robert Roth in the main role. Roth's exceptional performance won him a Dosky Slovak theatre award for best male performance. The production also won a Dosky award for best production.

In their theatrical resurrection of Hollý and his poem Svätopluk, Rastislav Ballek and Peter Pavlac have drawn a parallel between the suffering but hopeful poet and the defeated king who dreamed of a great victory. They thus indicate the mystical depth and realistic weakness of our history, while paying homage to an unjustly forgotten classic writer. Their achievement is due in no small part to the tour de force that is Robert Roth's performance. He masters the monodrama and its old-fashioned language with remarkable charm, making Hollyroth not a historical excavation but exciting modern theatre. In this he is partnered to great effect by DJ Oswald, who creates live sound paintings, dealing deftly with the beats, loops and samples of the actor's voice. A forceful production.

Juraj Kušnierik, Týžděň

You've never seen a reading of compulsory school poetry from the 19th century in such a magic theatrical form. Hollý's unintelligible language has never been heard in such fervent and convincing tones. In this original concept, the noble alternates with the banal, the comic with the tragic, fragments of authentic intimate correspondence regarding illnesses, poverty and loneliness with bucolic joie de vivre and the pathos of a heroic epic.

Dária Fehérová, catalogue for the Divadelná Nitra theatre festival

This is above all a team effort by creators who have taken this fragile piece of history by the neck and made the right cut. Svätopluk in Hollý's epic is here presented almost as an ancient hero rather than a national one. Above him stands the royal symbol, through which the creators have sent a message to Shakespeare himself.

Eva Andrejčáková, SME

Ballek built the script around one actor. He found him in Robert Roth. And Roth took on the hero perfectly. His acting is modern, and he handles the character and the text as a prop – he demonstrates the hero and his conflicts. He does not require psychological or historical arcs, but focuses on the climaxes of the conflicts. He deals with Hollý's words and verse in remarkable fashion. While preserving the original, the text is surprisingly understandable and contemporary.
Jozef Ciller's set and effective costumes are excellent. Roth's mask passes from a realistic face to a pierrot mask to a clown.

Oleg Dlouhý, Pravda

Rastislav Ballek (⃰b. 1971) – Studied philosophy and sociology at Comenius University, later theatre direction and dramaturgy at VŠMU in Bratislava and the State Theatre College in Krakow. He worked as a director at the Slovak National Theatre in Martin (1999-2001) and as a director and artistic head in the City Theatre, Žilina (2002-2008). He has also worked with the Slovak National Theatre, the Aréna Theatre in Bratislava and with other Slovak and Czech theatres.

His exceptional production of Tiso (2005) with Marián Labuda in the title role has also been seen at the Theatre festival. Ballek's work is based in particular on Slovak classical literature and history. He decanonises national myths and themes, using irony and parody. He has won several Dosky awards (Atoms of God from 1998 and Tiso).

Slovak National Theatre – In recent years the drama department of the Slovak National Theatre has opened up to up-and-coming Slovak guest directors (Gombár, Lančarič, Čičvák, Lavrík, Spišák), searched for new acting talent and focused on contemporary plays by foreign authors (Harrower, Schimmelpffenig, Glowacki, McDonagh, Crimp) and Slovak ones (R. Olekšák, V. Klimáček, Maliti-Fraňová, Uličiansky). The theatre's effort to be an open stage of European importance has led to guest productions by distinguished foreign directors – Enikö Eszényi (Hungary), Patrice Kerbrat (France) and J. A. Pitínský, Vladimír Morávek and Michal Dočekal (Czech Republic). The National Theatre's drama department, from 2011 headed by Emil Horváth, shows eight premieres a year in its historical and new buildings.

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