Black Water Washes Prejudice Away – Just for One Night – And Contemporary Drama Gives Listeners a Mirror
Sombre trombones opened the festival’s third day of listening sessions. And a play about truth and conscience kicked off the Drama category’s showcase. The topics of the dramas presented this year are all distinctive for how they can disturb listeners with their urgency and echo in one’s ears.
Šimon Dominik, Marta Rebzda, Stephanie Jamnicki, Ján Šimko, and Jan Čeněk sat on the Drama jury for this year’s Prix Bohemia.
In the day’s first radio production, Soudný den [Judgment Day] by director Víto Vencl, Jan Čeněk most greatly appreciated the continuity in its audio. This work by the Austrian dramatist Ödön von Horváth has guilt and conscience as its topics, making it feel as if inspired by Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
But this production also examines public opinion, which is especially fickle and cruel in smaller communities. The jurors unanimously praised the rich soundscape – the work of Ladislav Reich and Ladislav Železný – which whisked listeners straight to the milieu of the village.
The day’s second work made listeners witnesses to a crime as well. Director Natália Deáková created an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel Nutshell, with a surprising narrator: a child in the prenatal stage. The jurors noted the cynicism contained in both this child and its mother. The fetus cynically perceives both the murder of its father and the world into which it will be born. Cynical as well is, in the jurors’ eyes, the paradox of the general perception of the pregnant mother as an innocent, sacrosanct person, where in this production, she is the source for the idea of her husband’s murder.
The jurors very positively assessed the audio workmanship behind two contrasting environments – inside and outside the womb. Regarding the direction, however, the debate mainly focused on the casting. This was because the team’s oldest actor, Ivan Trojan, played the youngest role. However, script editor Klára Novotná noted this was intentional by the director. Interpretations and associations are thus left for the listener to freely imagine.
The production of Černá voda [Black Water] was met with intense listener interest. This theater play by Roland Schimmelpfenning was staged for radio by director Aleš Vrzák. Juror Jan Čeněk aptly compared this production’s narrative composition to the experience of listening to a swing ride, with the sound layers eventually melting into a sound collage resembling a song.
Juror Ján Šimek commented that the production lacked a variety of cultural confrontation; Vrzák responded: “That night, which drowns out skin color and lasts nearly until morning, until the dawning on the slopes, is – for me – something that also washes away language layers. This is why I would never go for casting that would highlight Arabic origins expressed through German and on into Czech. I think it could pick up a caricaturistic tinge that I’d be afraid of. For me this play is about washing away prejudice for a single night.”
Ján Šimek characterized the radio work Nauka o afázii [Aphasia Studies] as “a play not dictated through text.” And script editor Kateřina Rathouská supported this characterization when she revealed to listeners that the music and text were indeed both composed over time. Katharina Schmitt’s production about an opera singer who is brought to the hospital after losing her voice touches on themes of language and communication. The character of the nurse, who tried in a variety of ways to restore the singer’s speech – even by screaming and humiliating her – sparked a bit of controversy. Jan Čeněk and Šimon Dominik both emphasized this play’s rhythmic composition, whose dynamic range approaches music.
The listening marathon ended with a black comedy by Petr Pýcha, Bulhar [Bulhar], directed by Aleš Vrzák. The jurors found this play to have a double topic: both midlife crises and the power of money. Great appreciation was expressed for its situational comedy and the naturalness of its dialog, which, in the words of Klára Notovná, is the result of Petr Pýcha’s masterful reflection of real-life dialogue in his drama. This production is especially notable for its authenticity. It was achieved by filming outdoors – and, as Vrzák revealed in the discussion, also in other untraditional locations, such as the portable toilet into which actor Petr Čtvrtníček was enclosed to achieve an authentic sound.
This listening day ended with the classic conclusion – the announcement of this year’s student-jury award, which went to Petr Mančal’s production Dětí pekla [Children of Hell]. Kateřina Korychová, Bára Viceníková, and Kristýna Sulková acclaimed this production’s rich thematic layering of topics ranging from unhealed trauma to abuse to how seniors see and speak with the world.