The After Party
The play of our time,
the pop song of our souls,
the after party of our rituals.
It is 5 o ́clock in the morning at Prague Castle. Paradise seems far away. Jan Ptáček, the Master of Ceremonies, appointed by the long-since vanished, much loved and wise president, lifts the tablecloth and discovers Fanny Racine, an EU-official. Certain things got out of hand. But some things
went magically well as well. Well, well, well, what is that well?
What does the legacy of Václav Havel mean for Europe today? Is a new alliance possible? How would the Adam and Eve landscape look like in today's politics?
Vladimír Javorský and Christelle Cornil perform in this play by Pieter De Buysser.
Written and directed by Pieter De Buysser
With Christelle Cornil and Vladimír Javorský
Dramaturgy by Esther Severi
Scenography by Herman Sorgeloos
Costumes by Anne-Catherine Kunz
Czech Translation by Magda de Bruin Hüblová
English Translation by Miles O ́Shea
French Translation by Martine Bom
Produced and presented by Archa Theatre (CZ), ROBIN and Kaaitheater (B), with the support of the Culture Program of the EU as a part of House on Fire.
With the support of The Flemish Government, The Flemish Community in Brussels & Flanders Literature
Performance in Czech and French, surtitled in French and English (+ Dutch in Brussels)
22, 23 & 24 March 2017
Archa Theatre, Prague (CZ)
31 May & 1 June 2017
Archa Theatre, Prague (CZ)
4 & 5 Feb 2018
Archa Theatre, Prague (CZ)
7 Feb 2018
Kaaitheater Brussels (B)
-- Belgian premiere --
© Archa Theatre & ROBIN
Pieter De Buysser on the legacy of Václav Havel
Out of the many talks I had with Ondrej Hrab [Director of Archa Theatre Prague], this question emerged: how could Europeans deal with the legacy of Václav Havel? Could Hávels legacy help us to understand contemporary Europe, and even more, could his legacy be of any inspiration in an attempt to forge a much needed new narrative for Europe? To me his legacy is as highly problematic as it is fantastic. Above all it’s meaningful. His legacy is the key to understand what has happened in Europe and it’s the key to tell a story of tomorrows Europe.
Hável was a witty and unconventional philosopher cum president. A defiant and discerning moral authority. As a politician, he helped his country make a smooth transition from a communist zombie state to a modern Western democracy. He also oversaw the peaceful partition of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He’s one of the most fascinating and accurate incarnations of the liberal utopia.
As a playwright, his early work wickedly mocked a regime that no longer speaks its own ideology. All that remained was absurd drivel, empty rituals and especially a hair-raising and cruel totalitarian regime that had forgotten what it had started out as. The derailment of communism led to an abhorrence of ideology. He experienced how the lifeless ghosts of an ideology terrorized him and his people. He wanted to be a person of flesh and blood. He wanted to question the free, moral and physical individual, and to experience it completely himself. He despised ideology and expected everything from moral integrity and authenticity. And then he opted for ‘a politics of non-politics’. He betted for a politics of living “in truth and love.”
It is an almost inhuman undertaking not to have sympathy for the man. Not to be delighted by the enlightened moment of his modest, truthful presidency would require a heart of stone. Mischievous, unimaginably brave and consistent: all these qualities only make his legacy all the more tragic.
Despite his extraordinary intelligence, courage, sense of humour, shrewdness and moral hypertrophy, he became a wooden puppet, manipulated by both communism and capitalism. If today the ideological fault lines have been erased, then Hável was the pioneer. If today charisma and personality are more important than ideology, then he was the eminent trailblazer.
Throughout his life he courageously and intelligently resisted totalitarian socialism. Resistance without an ideology or a political programme: his only weapons were the force of the truth, humour and his personal integrity. With love in his chest, Zappa in the loudspeakers, beautiful women at his side and at the same time with a brave talent for moral introspection, without entirely realizing it, he sold his country to private investors. He wasn’t blind to the excesses of capitalism, but he believed that he could resist them with frank humour and wisdom. He expressed moving, subtle moral reflections on dealing with his own conscience. Even in his speech for the US Congress, where he praised the American free spirit, he dived into the most refined personal moral doubts. But he didn’t say a word on the official approval by the American Congress, that same week of his visit, to use waterboarding and other forms of torture. The core of the problem is the confusion between ethics and politics. Acting correctly politically is not the same as acting in agreement with one’s own truth and conscience. Politics is a question of analysis, of the gathering of knowledge and information, followed by decision-making.
A moralization of politics is also what we are now seeing at work in actual crises: southern Europeans are the lazy crickets, while northern Europeans are the industrious ants.
Reducing politics to a moral fable about good and evil means avoiding the unpleasant task implied by politics, it means relinquishing the preparation of informed analysis and an ideological choice.
Truth & Moustache
A conversation with Vladimír Javorský and Christelle Cornil
The After Party is also a play about an unexpected encounter, a clash of two different people and their worlds. What led you to The After Party?
VJ: Pieter contacted me through Ondřej Hrab after seeing The Garden Party at the Czech National Theatre. I suppose he saw a suitable candidate for a role in his upcoming project, The After Party, so he got in touch.
CHC: I was contacted by Pieter a year and a half ago. He said he knew my work and liked it, and he asked if we could discuss a project he had. I said yes, let’s meet, and that´s how it happened. We did not know each other before. But it was immediately obvious we would get along very well and that is a precious quality to share for an artistic project.
You rehearse in French and Czech. Despite the language differences it seems you have reached an understanding beyond language. How do you feel in this space between two languages?
VJ: We’re all people, and when you resonate with people, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re French or Papuan. Language is superficial, it’s always just a tool. Simple human contact is the only thing that matters.
Even in theatre?
VJ: Everywhere, even in theatre. In every profession. It works the other way around, too – you might have a Czech colleague and you still don’t understand each other. It’s not about that.
CHC: (Laughs) I can sort of get what he says... I think Pieter’s qualities, his empathy and curiosity and generosity, make it so that he chose two people who understand each other. We did not know much of each other, but he felt what kind of persons we are and how we interact, and it is a good match! So for us it is beautifully easy. When we met, it was very simple, we got into the work and got along together. It is a pleasure for us, being together at work and discussing all sorts of things during lunch-time.
VJ: A battlefield lies in front of us. We have two months to deal with it.
CHC: There will be a bit of fighting I think. Also, the easy thing is that he speaks French and it makes things much easier.
VJ: Too cheesy. (Laughs)
Do you also incorporate your own misunderstandings and words lost in translation into the play? Do new meanings emerge?
VJ: The After Party isn’t The Jester and the Queen, that’s not what it’s about. Maybe it will come, maybe we’ll start looking for those things, but for now, that is not the point of the play.
CHC: For the moment, we are on a different level. Vladimír understands what I am saying in French and I don’t really get what he says in Czech. So I have to be careful to know what text he is saying and know it as much as I can. So, when he speaks I can spot some words, like now I know ‘knír’, ‘pravda’ and ‘prezident’. There is no misunderstanding, because we are meant to understand each other. I am supposed to understand Czech and speak a little bit of Czech. But there is a huge misunderstanding to begin with. He is in a very agitated stage, she is waking up and gradually she gets into a problem with him.
You seem very relaxed and authentic. How do you identify with Jan Ptáček and Fanny Racine?
CHC: Oh yes, certainly many things. The ability to switch, when it is getting too complicated, too many words, noise, she just cuts off, I can do that sometimes when I am very tired. Or when I am getting nervous or scared about things. We are very different – she is coming from a world I know nothing about, but I can relate to her emotional states. She is in front of a big problem and she does not know how to deal with it. I would not show it as much as she does, I think she will be quite demonstrative, but I can be also very agitated. Emotional states I can relate to, definitely.
VJ: One has to be careful about this, kind of like when you’re skiing down a mountain for the first time. Only time will show if we take it further. As Evald Schorm used to say, simply and naturally. Sometimes that’s the best way.
CHC: Another thing I can fall in love with is the idea of just letting go into something new. I can relate to that. This did not work, so we should try something different. Fanny gradually gets into this idea. It takes more time, a different amount of time for each of us, but we join at one point.
VJ: Maybe that’s the way the play is written – it’s just there.
What is the biggest challenge for you in this project?
VJ: To get right to the core of what this play is about. To communicate what Pieter really intended to communicate.
CHC: For me it is to create a coherent inner voyage from point A to B to Z for Fanny. Because at the moment she goes from one emotion to the other, it is her sort of diagram, that will not change. Now we are working in French so I can read in French and Czech, but when we drop the text it will be really about listening to him and reacting to what he says, I want to be with him. That´s a big challenge, to learn as much Czech as I can in seven weeks.
What is your relation to Václav Havel? What does the legacy of Václav Havel mean to you today?
VJ: Havel’s legacy, his message, is expressed by the humanity of this play, which is quite a broad way of saying it. It’s in trying to discover this humanity, to experience it in our everyday life. That means not just the beautiful and pleasant things, but also the struggle and search. Of what? Antifilimbafski?
CHC: This is difficult for me. I have seen videos, got the book Letters to Olga and began to read it, but I could not really dive into the political aspect. I can only talk about what I feel seeing Havel talking. My feeling is that we are very often missing this kind of humanity and generosity and poetry that we can find in someone like Havel. It is inspiring to listen to him and to see how he interacted with people with care and respect, and also with humour.
Christelle, what is your relation to Central Europe and the Czech Republic, if any?
CHC: Unfortunately, I don’t know much of it. I have been to Germany, Bulgaria. But I have always been attracted by the language, the culture without knowing much of it. I would love to know more.
Vladimir, how do you utilize your wide acting experience from the Husa na provázku Theatre, the National Theatre, your collaboration with Tanaka and other alternative projects?
VJ: I never know how to answer this question. It just kind of happens on its own.
To what extent to you consider The After Party to be a political play with relevance to today’s issues?
CHC: For me it has political qualities because it questions my relationship to politics and how am I getting involved. Am I doing something which might do even a slight change? And also, the situation Fanny is in and he is in of saying, actually I am fine whatever is my condition, whatever job I am doing is fine and I don’t want to change, because I am so scared of what could happen. Maybe it could get worse. And I think it is a situation where lot of people are stuck. It is also a poetical play – because of the script aspects and the way Pieter is leading us. And a very humanistic, and also somehow crazy play. Maybe more humanistic than political, but with the political ground of course. Which is also Havel´s way of seeing politics I guess.
VJ: Truth and humanity are eternal topics, so I believe that The After Party deals with a theme that is relevant to any and every age. The search for and admitting of one’s own imperfection – these are rare abilities nowadays. Our age is full of us who know everything all the time, and there are more and more of us, and as we grow, we start to clash. Maybe if one makes himself, herself slightly smaller, a much larger living space will open up for them. There you go.
Are there any authors, actors or aesthetic movements that inspire you?
VJ: I don’t know. The hotel owner from the film Avanti!
CHC: I love Shakespeare and Wajdi Mouawad´s writing moves me. I love Art Deco and Art Nouveau and Prague is a wonderful place to discover it as well. As for actors, I have a profound admiration for the multitalented Meryl Streep.
Do you want to ask each other anything?
VJ: How are you?
CHC: Fine, very happy to be there. And how do you feel?
VJ: I’d like to conjure up butterflies flying out of your nose.
CHC: I want you to have butterflies in your belly.
Interview by Pavlína Svatoňová (Archa Theatre)
English Translation by Sára Foitová