All images by Collavino
(Loosely based on the fiction of Joseph Roth)
Adapted by Daniel Majling (200 words)
Directed by Michal Vajdička
(Drama Department of the Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava)
Premiere: 10 November 2018
Date I Saw This Show: 4 May 2019
What I Saw
The first of several productions to deal with major moments in Slovak history, Project commemorated the 100th anniversary of the formation of Czechoslovakia out of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Adaptor Majling made the decision to present the lives of ordinary people on an epic scale. Michal Vajdička’s epic production, centered around an enormous wading pool, presented Project 1918on the main theatre stage of the Slovak National Theatre. The set, designed by Pavol Andraško, for this production consisted of a large wading pool, the swamp of empire pulling down families and armies, towered over by a bust of Emperor Franz Joseph. The costume design by Katarina Hollá presented historic costumes with no pants and black wading boots, leaving us with an image of soldiers and patriarchs losing their pants..
Act I focused on pre-1914 and found families facing the realities of an impending war. Vajdička’s uses the wading pool in Act I to give the sense of sinking, with some evocative dancing in the swamp and the soldiers wading in the swamp, as the Empire moves more toward dissolution.
In Act II, the time period leaped to the 1920s with various nationalities coming together in their new post-war reality, and some characters are living in the swamp, dining with empty chairs as companions. Other characters find themselves betrayed after having served in the war, others deal with the changing face of society as women begin dating women, seeking their own professional careers, and prejudice is proclaimed as “its own vulgarity.” Eventually the bust of Franz Joseph is laid to rest, and we know that the days of one empire are behind us, but there’s more history just ahead.
In this epic work, there are cultural and political critiques that seem as much about present-day Slovakia as the past travails of the Slovak people.