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World War I through the eyes of an American

THIS year, the whole world, and especially Europe (which was hit hardest), commemorates the centenary marking the outbreak of World War I. A host of political, social and cultural events have been organised to mark this anniversary. Among them, one international project stands out.

THIS year, the whole world, and especially Europe (which was hit hardest), commemorates the centenary marking the outbreak of World War I. A host of political, social and cultural events have been organised to mark this anniversary. Among them, one international project stands out.

Three national theatres, the Czech one in Prague, Vígszínház in Budapest, and the Slovak National Theatre in Bratislava, have joined forces to stage a unique work based on two rather different literary works; the world-famous satire The Good Soldier Švejk and the anti-war opus by Karl Kraus, The Last Days of Mankind: A Tragedy in Five Acts with Preamble and Epilogue. The play, called simply 1914, has been directed by renowned, and outstanding American theatre director, stage and light designer (and originally choreographer) Robert Wilson, who also did all of the theatrical genres for this drama.

The piece is to be played in all three national theatres, and from October 28 to 30, it will visit the Slovak National Theatre’s (SND’s) new building. It was conceived by Aleš Březina and Soňa Červená (who acted in several of Wilson’s plays staged in the National Theatre in Prague), with costumes by Yashi, light design by AJ Weissbard, music by Aleš Březina, video-animations by Tomek Jeziorski and libretto by Marta Ljubková.

The cast is mainly Czech (Soňa Červená, Václav Postránecký, Vladimír Javorský, Pavla Beretová, Enikö Eszenyi, Taťjana Medvecká, Eva Salzmannová, Filip Rajmont, Jan Bidlas, Milan Stehlík, Radúz Mácha; musicians Petr Valášek, David Řehoř, František Tomšíček), with SND’s Ján Koleník being the only Slovak actor participating.

Wilson is known for his “non-theatrical” theatre, based on body movements, postures, lights, stage and design accents, symbols and music, in addition to being quite slow, if not static. 1914, although having a dynamic, tragic event as its motif, is a humorous, vivid cabaret trying to draw parallels between the events and situations that launched the first truly global war in the modern era, and our current world.

The play has English subtitles. It is also accompanied by the event called Kabinet Robert Wilson: it is a new form of theatre seminar, complete with lectures, screenings of Wilsons’ selected performances, a viewing of the 1914 performance, and a debate with actors and theatre creators. More information can be found at kadu.sk, while information on the piece itself can be found at wilson1914.com. More information about the staging in SND, as well about the tickets, can be found at snd.sk.

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