All images by Ján Štovka
The Reunification of The Two Koreas
By Joël Pommerat (200 words)
Directed by Júlia Rázusová
(State Theatre Košice)
Premiere: 16 February 2018
Date I Saw This Show: 6 May 2019
What I Saw
One of two productions in the festival directed by Júlia Rázusová, co-founder of the Prešov National Theatre. Rázusová's staging of a French dark comedy/drama is billed as a “battle of the sexes” and Rázusová won the 2018 DOSKY award for directing for this production. The audience is divided in two and seated facing each other, with the production situated on a traverse stage with an enormous Zen sand garden in the center, complete with rakes. There’s a platform in the middle of the sand garden and in the center of the platform is a stack of objects covered with a sheet. In the opening moments, this sheet is removed, revealing the remaining scenic devices: a table and set of four chairs. Looking at the complexities of relationships through a series of small scenes (52 of them) Pommerant uses the Korean peninsula as a metaphor for contemporary relationships and Rázusová compounds this metaphor through physical acting, and a company of actors tackling this ambitious work like eager combatants.
The ensemble of six actors (Alena Ďuránová, Tatiana Poláková, Veronika Husovská, Juraj Zetyák, Andrej Palko, and Brano Mosny) storms the stage in army helmets, introducing themselves as trios to their side of the audience for the evening. These actors would then return to the audience at select moments to offer insight or passionate pleas. The theme of division was apparent in every aspect of the production design, from the moment the two halves of the table were divided, and had to be balanced just properly to work, to chairs whose legs sprung off with the jerk of a wrist, further complicating a situation that’s sinking in the sand.
The second act takes an absurd turn, fantasy overtaking reality, as parents hire a sitter to babysit for imaginary children and then accuse her of losing their children upon returning home, a couple takes to the sand to try and find a way to sit down together, and the war of words that began early on culminates in a scene of two men riling each other up using various languages and dialects. After a final scene, Rázusová’s direction and Markéta Plachá’s designs culminate once more in an image illuminating how divided the world of the play and the world at large has become.
*This production won the Student Jury Award at the Nova Drama 2019 Awards Ceremony.