DICTIONARY OF THE KHAZARS Many centuries ago, the Khazars forged a powerful empire in Eastern Europe, which has since been all but forgotten. The myths associated with this semi-nomadic Turkic people inspired a novel by Serbian writer Milorad Pavić. His Dictionary of the Khazars is made up of dictionary entries that feature a myriad of characters. Dreams and reality intermingle across a span of many centuries. The stage adaptation of this forty-year-old novel on an ancient people contains many contemporary motifs and topical issues. Pavić’s reconstruction of a purported dictionary of the Khazars for the Goose on a String Theatre takes on the form of a museum visit accentuated by the visual set design – an enormous red panel with spikes reminiscent of a butterfly display case, glass cabinets with exhibits, and actors playing the roles of museum guides, visitors, and even museum showpieces. The director’s rich metaphorical language full of playfulness, ambiguity, parallels, and references is supported by an extremely tight acting ensemble.
The Dictionary of the Khazars is a theatrical delight and offers confident performances from the Goose on a String compact ensemble; elegant, stylised acting; and visual spectacle. The imagery is full of metaphorical references and scenic poetry and employs amusing, dramatic irony and mischievous humour.
– Marie Reslová, Aktuálně.cz
What makes Mikulášek’s production – an adaptation of a novel that lacks any kind of discernible plot – so appealing is the imagery and visual opulence into which the director has distilled Pavić’s unbridled poeticism, allegory, and sarcasm, as well as the novel’s fairy-tale-like nature full of bitter truths and surreal logic. What’s most valuable, however, is that he has managed to capture the old postmodern atmosphere and imbue it with relevant, contemporary concerns.
– Luboš Mareček, Lidové noviny
Pavić’s tribute to a forgotten people appears to have stood the test of the stage. The production is an artistic labyrinth of meanings, ideas, and posturing.
– Petr Klarin Klár, Divadelní noviny
JAN MIKULÁŠEK (1978) He worked as the artistic director of the Polárka Theatre in Brno and later also as the artistic head of the Petr Bezruč Theatre. He also cooperated with the Reduta Theatre in Brno on a regular basis. In 2013, when Petr Štědroň, artistic head of the Reduta Theatre, took over as head of the Theatre on the Balustrade, Mikulášek became its in-house director. With the Theatre on the Balustrade, he won the 2011 Divadelní noviny Award for Best Creative Achievement in the drama category for his production of The V+W Letters. In 2013, his production of The Golden Sixties won the Alfréd Radok Award for Best Play; and in 2018, he received the Divadelní noviny Award for Best Creative Achievement in the drama category for his production of Woodcutters. In that same year, he also took home the Josef Balvín Award for that same production from the Prague Theatre Festival of the German Language. In addition to the Theatre on the Balustrade, he collaborates with other theatres, recently mostly with the National Theatre (The Cremator, Maryša, Wonderful Land, I Am the State) and with the Goose on a String Theatre (Don Quixote, Dictionary of the Khazars). Mikulášek’s directorial approach frequently involves stage adaptations of novels, original scripts, and auteur theatre. He often employs cuts, detail, musical contrapposto, and parallel action. What interests him most about theatre are the contrasts – the tension between precision and sloppiness, the mechanical and the authentic, and frenzy and calm.
GOOSE ON A STRING THEATRE A leading Brno theatre, founded in 1967. Its strong point has always been its irregular dramaturgy, making use of new themes in originally non-dramatic texts. The name of the theatre comes from a volume of experimental librettos by the Brno man of letters Jiří Mahen. The progressive theatre formed around the dramaturge Bořivoj Srba and the directors Eva Tálská, Zdeněk Pospíšil and Peter Scherhaufer. As one of the country’s freest theatre groups, it managed to retain its courage and freshness despite many difficulties under the previous regime. The ‘Stringers’ performed in the House of Art, which was otherwise (and still is) an exhibition space. Those who started out with the theatre include such later stars of Czech theatre as Bolek Polívka, Miroslav Donutil, Jiří Bartoška, Karel Heřmánek and Jaromír Dulava. Its legendary productions include the premiere of Ballad for a Bandit by Miloš Štědroň and Milan Uhde, The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart written for the theatre by Ludvík Kundera and based on Comenius’ work, and Reminiscences, based on Hrabal’s novel I Served the King of England (the production was in the theatre’s repertoire before the book itself was officially approved for publication). The theatre maintained its good reputation after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Since September 1993 it has been based in the House of the Lords of Fanal on Zelný trh. After the fall of the communist regime, the theatre underwent several changes in artistic management, until director Vladimír Morávek took up the post of artistic head in 2005. He was replaced in January 2019 by Anna Davidová, followed by dramaturge Martin Sládeček who is the current artistic head of the theatre.