Dead Souls

Beside the title, the other thing these Dead Souls have in common with Googol’s novel is that they are a sharp satire of the existing socio-political system. We peep in block of flats on Bratislava’s housing estate quarter Petržalka, but it may be on any other such estate in Central or Eastern Europe. We see quiet people in their underwear, dressing gowns or sadomaso costumes. Their rituals, disillusionments and piercing loneliness are the accusation of the individualist society which is focused on production, success and difference. These “dead souls” are people who are unable to compete, only wordlessly repeat their rituals of loneliness, too tired to be themselves. It is really “intimity as a show”.

In recent years the productions of the SkRAT Theatre have been considered one of the best in Slovak dramatic art. Authenticity, humour and fragmentary yet unbroken reflection of common reality of common people and reality of artists creating in difficult circumstances are typical for SkRAT’s productions. In Dead Souls the producers shift the poetics further and create some, for Slovak environment unusual type of non-verbal physical theatre. They make us, the audience, voyeurs. They make us to peep into the traumatising semi-dark rooms, cuts of block of flat’s apartments, and watch anonymous, but concrete in conduct, characters – images of ourselves. In fact, they/we are dead souls – some monotonous machines which repeat deep-rooted rituals as some mantra, rituals which should make them/us a bit closer to the earlier hopes and life plans. This all is happening in the traumatising space full of raked stages, in the half-lit room with screening showing the fragments of the video-film by Oľga Paštéková entitled Petržalka after the Midnight and the shade animation by Daniela Krajčová.

Dead Soulsare also a sound collage made of excerpts of music, noises, bangs, sights, whispers, electronic beats, which totally intensify the disturbing atmosphere of the uneven world – quite an exact scenic metaphor. The structure of Dead Souls moves somewhere in timelessness – parallel scenes, some life outside the time, perhaps in a memory or desire and, at the same time, thanks to the stage reality, here and now.

Dead Soulsare – as Gilles Lipovetsky said – the intimacy like a show. The characters are in fact narcissuses who show the most intimate corners of their bodies and souls and we watch it, perhaps in order to admit that we are one of them. We do not see how they enter and leave, they appear in front of us like their own ghosts, like well functioning objects reduced to their corporeality.

Dead Soulsare also a socio-critical theatre, a record of today, of the life of the generation who experienced the change of regimes and who had to define itself in the new social circumstances. The neo-liberal society focusing on profit structures society and makes people machines to operate. According to Lipovetsky, in “the social wasteland there is possible to live only when the centre of interest will be one’s own self”. And Dead Souls are some modern wasteland where one’s own self becomes an empty mirror, timeless and shapeless structure.

Martina Vannayová, Divadelná Nitra 2010 catalogue