Kukura, written by Martin Čičvák. Director: Rastislav Ballek. Dramaturgy: Martin Curban. Production assistance: Martin Čičvák. Premiere: 29 May 2011, Aréna Theatre, Bratislava, Slovakia.
The mysterious title of this piece is the name of the actor Juraj Kukura (b. 1947) who is well known in Slovakia and the Czech Republic; long ago a famous lover, now he is a director and theatre director. The fact that the play, in which a living actor is a hero, has been staged at the theatre where Kukura is a director, spices up the situation. What is more, in another production of the play, in Prague, it was the author Martin Čičvák who also directed and none other than Juraj Kukura who played the role of Kukura.
In the Bratislava production it is realized in a different way: the role of Kukura is performed by as many as four actors. This conveys a universal expression of the play—Kukura, in four variants, as each actor repeats his role and each does it differently, becomes the embodiment of a man of theatre, worried about the triumphant procession of mass culture with soap operas as its vanguard.
The action of the play is simple: the agitated director is waiting for the arrival of the great star on whom the success of the show depends. Kukura is already there, disgruntled with the delay of the rehearsal, he is ready to perform in his impeccably tailored tuxedo. Kukura does not want to wait any longer, but the director manages to restrain the close-to-hysteria actor from leaving.
She appears finally, a true star in every gesture and the movement of a vamp (a great performance by Jana Ol’hová). She sits in a studied manner and accepts the scenario to the delight of the director. Joy, however, turns out to be premature. Although the actress accepts the scenario as a whole, she rejects the details. She rejects so many of them, trying to get everything in line with the tastes of a mass audience, that the premiere becomes questionable.
Finally Kukura reappears again, but this time in the form of a large marionette animated by two actors. He presents his artistic credo, protesting against the facile arts, tailored for undemanding audience. The speech does not reveal anything new, it confirms the disappointment shared by artists of the post-communist countries, unprepared to create under the circumpstances of the free market. It is not the first time we hear it, nevertheless, as it is said by a doll, we listen to it carefully. It is hard not to believe the doll.
Kukura’s monologue, the long monologue of a tired-of-his-life artist, resembles the monologue from Thomas Bernhard’s play Minetti actor. Bernhard’s work has little in common with the real biography of the actor, though Minetti himself admitted that, although they spoke not more than a hasty three hours, the playwright managed to capture a lot of his features, and that it was admirable how much Bernhard got to know about him. The Austrian playwright used Minetti’s surname as a symbol, trying to fathom the essence of acting.
Čičvák, who knows Kukura much better than Bernhard knew Minetti, acts similarly. At the end of the play we are presented with a type of confession, or a summary of the artist’s life experiences and the question is repeated whether it was worth devoting one’s life to the theatre. Thus the line of the performance runs from the comic, almost farcical skit at the beginning to the existential tragedy towards the end.
Rastislav Bellek chose an unusual form of presentation (the above mentioned variants of the main character, monologue dolls), which strongly determines the modest but meaningful set—the catwalk at the fashion show on one hand, the hand whisk on the other. The handle of the whisk disappears below the horizon. Who moves the whisk? That is the question.
 Tomasz Miłkowski (1947, Warsaw, Poland), Ph.D., Polish philology, University of Warsaw. Journalist, literary and theatre critic, author of many books, essays, and reviews. Editor-in-chief of the Internet theatre quaterly “Yorick” (www.aict.art.pl).