Justice Done on Stage
Standing in the foyer right next to the Puppetry Department’s studio, I take a glimpse of a strangely dressed creature elbowing his way through the crowd of impatient visitors who are waiting to see how the students of the 2nd year of Puppetry manage to stage the play called Comedy about the Rich Man and Lazarus by Pavel Kyrmezer, based on a well-known biblical theme. First I feel a bit angry: such indiscretion from the actor – to reveal his costume and mysteries of the play before it even started! But as soon as he enters the studio, one can hear the sound of the bottles clinging and people inside singing cheerfully. When the spectators are finally allowed to enter the room as well, everyone understands why. You find yourself in the middle of a medieval pub and the creature that was seen before is just one of its medieval visitors. Instead of normal seats you find yourself sitting at a table loaded with all kinds of food and wine, watching the Rich Man and his company enjoying the pleasures of life in front of you.
This setting creates the atmospehere of joy and physical pleasures of medieval noblemen immediately. Andrej Sisák, playing the rich man, so slim and active in reality, is now fat and clumsy with his huge artificial belly hidden under his purple costume. His rich man is absolutely convincing - mean, stupid, shallow and cruel, just the right candidate to end up in hell. And in addition to that, he is absolutely hilarious. He works perfectly with his hand puppet, which is an accurate, but much smaller replica of him. Changing lights reveal another character. Lukáš Tandara playing the role of Lazarus appears dressed in a grey cloth under the table, crawling on the floor. His character is represented by a puppet as well, a wooden marionette, which he manipulates masterfully. Through its gestures he manages to express his pain, despair and melancholy.
After being refused the help from the rich man, Lazarus dies of hunger. The act in which the puppet of Lazarus is ‘elevated’ to heaven is absolutely magical. There are puppets of angels singing choirs accompanied by the sounds of jingle bells and feathers flying everywhere. But as soon as this heavenly feeling is over, there is time to punish those who refuse to help the poor. A tall black figure with a pale face appears behind the rich man, who si still dining at the table. She blows the candles on a chandelier made of hartshorns hanging above the rich man’s head. By quick manipulation, she takes apart the chandelier. At that moment, we discover that it is in fact a huge puppet representing the death, a ghostly skeleton. It has been there all the time, as a prophet of what will eventually become of the rich man. The image of the puppet floating through red light is so intense that the audience stops breathing.
This is, however, not where the performance ends. It is supposed to be a comedy, so what follows is a grotesque scene in hell, where the rich man has to deal with two annoying devils.
The final applause lasts for almost ten minutes. For a while I am wondering whether the director intended to hide a moral in his play. We have been sitting at the rich man’s table, after all. Although this issue may be a bit puzzling, it has been a spectacular theatre experience. The acting was vivid, technically perfect and still full of ease. The stage designer has done a wonderful job creating the setting which made each act visually interesting and convincing. Altogether, it has been a perfect example of how to stage an almost five-hundred-years-old play in a modern and captivating way, which will definitely atract the attention of wide audiences.
This review was written for the course"Practical English" taught by Dominika Uhríková' in the 2011 winter term.
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