Zdeněk Adamec + Self-Accusation

Peter Handke

Dušan D. Pařízek

Petr Štědroň (Zdeněk Adamec), Jitka Bodláková (Self-Accusation)

Dušan D. Pařízek

Kamila Polívková

Peter Fasching & výběr/selection

Dora Štědroňová, Petr Štědroň

Samuel Finzi, Jiří Černý
Stanislav Majer, Martin Pechlát

The performance is in Czech and partially in German, with English surtitles

2 December 2021

ZDENĚK ADAMEC + SELF-ACCUSATION With his analytical view of the world and the unenviable role that humankind plays within its confines, Dušan D. Pařízek sends off his new double bill to the stage. The production is based on the first (Self-Accusation) and last (Zdeněk Adamec) texts by playwright and Nobel Prize winner in Literature Peter Handke. Handke’s play, Zdeněk Adamec, follows the story of the eponymous young man who set himself on fire on Wenceslas Square back in 2003. On the evening of 5 March 2003, Adamec – an 18-year-old high-school student from a small Czech town located halfway between Brno and Prague – takes an intercity bus to the Czech capital. The next morning, he pours gasoline on himself on Wenceslas Square and sets himself on fire. He does so on the very same spot where, in 1969, Jan Palach himself committed the same act of self-immolation in protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Just as Palach referred to himself as Torch No. 1, Adamec publishes a farewell note online entitled Torch 2003. ‘Zdeněk catapulted himself out of the world to protest against the world,’ reads one line in Handke’s 2017 novel, The Fruit Thief, in which the author first explored the character of Zdeněk Adamec. The unconditional and radical nature of this act served as the work’s starting point. All justifications and explanations for his motives must fail. Handke’s Zdeněk Adamec is not a sorry loser. He does not suffer from some existential nausea, and he is no ‘maniac’. He is just Zdeněk Adamec and he was not made for this world or its order. The second play in this double-bill production entitled Self-Accusation reflects on Peter Handke as a controversial public figure. The Nobel Prize-winning writer and provocateur is portrayed by the exceptional German actor Samuel Finzi and a member of the Theatre on the Balustrade ensemble, Jiří Černý.

Dušan D. Pařízek returns to Prague after many years to stage a double-bill production of texts by his favourite playwright, Peter Handke. The result is something of a theatrical essay on outsiders, loneliness, exceptionalism, the (apparent?) derangement of individuals, as well as the search for an approach to unpleasant (and perhaps unacceptable?) opinions, ideas, and attitudes. Pařízek does not judge, but rather shows the ambiguity and problematic nature of human rationale and action without any sentimentality or sugar-coating. Despite the strong symbolism, in which Self-Accusation is staged inside a sacral building and Zdeněk Adamec is ‘thrust’ directly into the audience sitting in the first few rows of the Theatre on the Balustrade, and despite the outstanding acting performances by all four protagonists, the audience is still left uncertain as to how to interpret Handke’s and Adamec’s actions and attitudes.
– Sukces měsíce, Divadelní noviny

Pařízek translates Handke’s language play into the theatrical setting by maximising the energy of the actors, which is so strong that it captures the audience in an instant. It then follows the actors as a flexible, sensitive mass until the end of the performance. The audience lets itself be guided and experience the ups and downs of the ambiguous and still mysterious story of Zdeněk Adamec. It has been long since such vigorous acting was felt in the theatre, and yet without unnecessary exhibitionism or self-serving showmanship, but fully in the spirit and for the sake of the play.
– Petr Fischer, Salon, Právo

In his text, Handke offers an ambiguous view of who Zdeněk Adamec really was. The playwright questions our ability to understand the motivations of a person whom we know little about other than a handful of objective facts (e.g. where he lived, what places he frequented, and how he spent his time). We’ll never learn what he was really thinking or why he acted in the way that he did. Making its official Czech premiere, Dušan Pařízek’s staging of Handke’s latest play serves as a continuation of Pařízek's many other productions of Peter Handke’s works at the Komedie Theatre and, at the same time, serves as another instalment in his string of German-language productions in which he questions national myths and verifies their truth. This double bill featuring Zdeněk Adamec and Self-Accusation is his highly topical contribution to public discourse at a time when a part of society is unaware that the acceptance of responsibility for one’s own actions is part of civic life, indeed its very essence.
– Iva Mikulová, Divadelní noviny

DUŠAN DAVID PAŘÍZEK (1971) He studied Comparative Literature and Drama at the University of Munich and Acting and Directing at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague. In 1998, when he was still a student, he founded and subsequently led the Prague Chamber Theatre from 2002 to 2012, which went on to win the ‘Theatre of the Year’ award several times. In addition to a number of firsts in productions and premieres in the Czech Republic (of plays by Werner Schwab, Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Handke, and Thomas Bernhard, just to name a few), he also adapted works by authors such as Robert Musil and Franz Kafka there. Since 2002, he has directed a number of plays (for most of which he also designed the sets) in major theatres across Germany and Switzerland, including Schauspiel Köln, Deutsches Theater Berlin (a co-production with Salzburger Festspiele), Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, Schauspiel Hannover, Theater Bremen, Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf, and Schauspielhaus Zürich. After his first directorial job in Vienna at the Akademietheater (The Ridiculous Darkness) in 2014, he staged his own adaptation of Hašek entitled The Schwejk Case in 2015 as part of Wiener Festwochen in co-production with Prague’s Studio Hrdinů Theatre. In the 2015–2016 season, he staged his own adaptation of Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters and Peter Handke’s Self-Accusation at the Volkstheater in Vienna, where he also staged Nora³ by Henrik Ibsen and Elfriede Jelinek, originally produced as a world premiere for Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf. In the 2016–2017 season, he staged Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools, also at the Volkstheater. In 2012, Pařízek’s production of J. W. von Goethe’s Faust 1–3 was invited, together with Elfriede Jelinek’s secondary drama FaustIn and Out (which premiered at the Schauspielhaus Zürich in 2012), to the Authorentheatertage Festival in Berlin and, in 2013, to the Theatertage Festival in Mülheim. In 2015, he was invited to the Berlin Theatertreffen and the Theatertage Festival in Mülheim with his rendition of The Ridiculous Darkness, which premiered at the Burgtheater Wien in 2014. The dark comedy was named Best Production of the Year, won Set Design of the Year by the critics’ survey of Theater Heute Magazine, and was awarded the 2015 Nestroy Theatre Prize for Best German-Language Production. In the 2017–2018 season, Dušan David Pařízek staged the Austrian premiere of Ewald Palmetshofer’s Before Sunrise (a play based on the book by Gerhart Hauptmann) at the Akademietheater in Vienna. The production won the Nestroy Theatre Prize for Best Direction in 2018. In the 2018–2019 season, Iphigenia was his first work for the Schauspiel Bochum. The next season saw him direct, among other things, Chekhov’s Three Sisters in Bremen. His work can be perceived as a study on the relations within Central European countries and national identities, which remain very diverse despite their shared past, and whose national myths are in need of critical review. His King Ottokar’s Fortune and End (2019) opened at the Volkstheater with Karel Dobrý in the lead role. Now, after many years, Dušan D. Pařízek returns to Prague as a stage director with Peter Handke’s Zdeněk Adamec + Self-Accusation at the Theatre on the Balustrade.

THEATRE ON THE BALUSTRADE The theatre’s long tradition has involved a number of distinguished figures, with those who have passed through the theatre including Václav Havel, Ivan Vyskočil, Jan Grossman, Evald Schorm and Petr Lébl. Since its creation the Theatre on the Balustrade has played a significant role in the country’s social and cultural context. It has created numerous productions that have represented the Czech Republic abroad, and is home to a pleiad of notable actors. Since the 2013–2014 season, the theatre has been headed by Petr Štědroň, Dora Viceníková (married Štědroňová) and Jan Mikulášek, who are inclined towards irregular dramaturgy and auteur theatre. After 2017, following a successful renovation, the Theatre on the Balustrade continued to produce work that has met with acclaim from both audiences and critics. David Jařab’s production Macbeth – Too Much Blood was declared Production of the Year of 2017 at the Theatre Critics’ Survey. Jan Mikulášek’s Woodcutters won the Josef Balvín Award, Production of the Year at the Divadelní noviny Awards, and Best Set Design of 2018 at the Theatre Critics’ Survey. In addition to intensive Czech hosting activity, the theatre has conducted successful foreign tours all over Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland and Hungary) and the production The V+W Letters was shown in the Czech House in New York. The most recent foreign tour took place in May this year, when the ensemble appeared at the Kontakt festival in Toruń, Poland, with Mikulášek’s Lost Illusions.