Review: Play captures confused Slovak identity

The first scene of Gunagu Theatre director Viktor Klimáček's new play Genius Loci ('The Soul of the Place' in Latin) shows a 'lonely young man' - a young Slovak alone in his flat, listening to opera while masturbating. Although he is unnamed, as are all the nine characters, the audience recognizes him.
Genius Loci is Klimáček's view of life in modern Slovakia; the whirlwind changes, trials and tribulations of a country just 10 years removed from its communist past.
Different life stories are shown of nine characters, each somehow intertwined with the others: a lonely young man, a young actor, an actress/call girl, an insurance company employee, a mentally disturbed professor, a divorced father, a priest, a father living at home with his baby, and a drug addict.



Genius Loci

By:Gunagu theatre
Author: Viliam Klimáček and Co.
Directed by: Karol Vosátko
Showings: January 22-24, 19:30
Address: Čierny Havran, Biela ulica (Old Town)
Tickets: 50 Sk at City Culture Centre, Uršulínska11, open Mon.-Fri., 14-18:00.

The first scene of Gunagu Theatre director Viktor Klimáček's new play Genius Loci ('The Soul of the Place' in Latin) shows a 'lonely young man' - a young Slovak alone in his flat, listening to opera while masturbating. Although he is unnamed, as are all the nine characters, the audience recognizes him.

Genius Loci is Klimáček's view of life in modern Slovakia; the whirlwind changes, trials and tribulations of a country just 10 years removed from its communist past.

Different life stories are shown of nine characters, each somehow intertwined with the others: a lonely young man, a young actor, an actress/call girl, an insurance company employee, a mentally disturbed professor, a divorced father, a priest, a father living at home with his baby, and a drug addict.

Klimáček shows what happens to isolated and oppressed people who are then suddenly offered free passage to a world of new ideas and options. Adaptation is not always easy - traditional values are quickly replaced and sometimes forgotten, often simply for the sake of change. The Slovak national anthem and Beatles songs give way to Kurt Cobain tunes, marijuana and inflateable sex dolls for atmosphere.

Characters are real and modern. Their slang alone is an honest depiction of modern Slovak speech: expressions like Ježiš, sorry, chuj, nonsens, toto sa mi ľúbi, bomba, super, krista, fajn, chľastať, baba, banda, and poď moja (meaning "Come, my dear," a phrase muttered by lonely man to his inflatable sex doll).

As the life stories unwind, each of the nine characters are all somehow linked at the end when they find themselves gathered around a priest listening to a sermon. The priest, his face innocent and excited as a village boy's while his shanks are wrapped in tight, revealing black ballet trousers, gives a rambling speech on topics ranging from traditional to extreme opinions. The characters perform a haphazard choreography of random movements in response to his words, both listening to and mocking him at the same time.

The play and its setting interact with its audience. Founded in 1985, the Gunagu theatre's intimate style (capacity is just 50 people) encourages a group experience where the crowd and players feed off each other. The spontaneous and favourable reactions show that they both, and indeed all Slovaks, have shared the same experiences.

It's a provocative mixture of well-rehearsed set-pieces and moments of improvisation. The audience feels a sense of melancholy for things lost to the past while laughing at the absurdities of old and new habits. The directing of Karol Vosátko produces terse art, black humour and tender violence.

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