Interview: HaDivadlo’s Táňa Malíková On “Ours”, and Family Relations as a Battlefield of The Climate Crisis

“Ours” is a production by HaDivadlo that depicts a family, on a Sunday afternoon, torn about the right approach to adopt in the face of climate change. The dialogues, created through a particular theatrical writing process, using the method of documentary theater and verbatim, give a peculiar impression of realism. Brno Daily went to see the play to learn more about its creative process and interview actress Táňa Malíková. Photo Credit: Káťa Opuntia for Hadivadlo.

Brno, June 11 (BD) – The play has already been performed for two and a half years, but is still a great success with audiences, half embarrassed and half amused to find this atmosphere so familiar and recognize their own family quarrels in those played out on stage. “Ours” was co-written by Pavel Sterec, Bohdan Karásek and Ivan Buraj, HaDivadlo’s director since 2015. Buraj also directed the staging of the play. The play was therefore initially written by and for HaDivadlo, but has also travelled to other Czech cities, including Oskar Nedbal´s Theater in Tábor and the Divadelní Flora Theatre Festival in Olomouc. The play will next appear on stage at HaDivadlo without English subtitles on Tuesday, 14 June, but future English-friendly performances will take place next year.

Family conversations as today’s battlefield of the climate crisis

The Czech title, “Naši”, can be translated as “Ours”, but can also more particularly imply “our” elders, “our” relatives. The play is indeed about family relationships, and how environmental concerns take place within them, until family conversations become “today’s battlefield of the climate crisis”. The dialogues, placed in the context of a family discussion after Sunday lunch, paint with precision and realism the points of view of different members of a fictional family. “The aim was to personalize abstract views and look for specific people interacting in the family environment. The family thus served us as a metaphor for humanity, in which we also live in one home – our planet,” explained the writers.

“Ours” was created through a particular theatrical writing process, using the method of documentary theater and verbatim. Both methods have the characteristic of using real people’s words. In documentary theater all sources can be used by theater-makers, such as archives, press, correspondence or diaries. In other words, any kind of pre-existing documentary material. Verbatim, on the other hand, is more specific and its operation is based on the recording of interviews or conversations and carried out as part of the process of theatrical creation. In the case of “Ours,” HaDivadlo’s team primarily used verbatim, through a recording of a question-driven conversation between selected speakers, which was then freely used to create the play.

“Ours” was created through a particular theatrical writing process, using the method of documentary theater and verbatim. Photo Credit: Káťa Opuntia for Hadivadlo

Each member of the family in some way also personifies a dilemma: legality or moral justice, comfort or risk-taking, hysteria or passivity. Eliška, the younger sister in the play, is the metaphor for the latter: “what defines a hysterical reaction, and who determines the boundaries of what a ‘healthy’ reaction is,” in the words of the play’s synopsis. She is played by Táňa Malíková, from the permanent company at HaDivadlo, who we were able to interview. Táňa was born on 13 February 1991 in Kopřivnice and studied acting at the Ostrava Conservatoire. In 2014 she finished her acting studies at the Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts, and has been working at HaDivadlo since then.

“All right. So I’m going to throw generations here? Yeah, I’m a boomer, and you’re done with me. That’s ridiculous! Do you think that Milan and I don’t care how our child grows up?”  – Kristýna, Eliška’s older sister in the play. Photo Credit: Káťa Opuntia for HaDivadlo.

Táňa’s character Eliška, the 25-year-old younger sister of the family, is a media sciences student in Prague. We quickly understand that she is the most emotionally involved in the family in the fight against the climate crisis, and that her radical speech is not always well received by her relatives, in particular her older sister who has several times paid the fines for Eliška’s militant actions.

“This is actually the culmination of everything a human being can achieve in life. Stand on your own two feet. You only think about your well-being and you don’t care about the world around you, and at the same time you have a lot of talk about responsibility.” – Eliška. Photo Credit: Káťa Opuntia for Hadivadlo.

“I think in this problem it is sometimes important to overreact if you want to be heard”

“I always try to find something that I have in common with my role and this was no exception. But there are moments where I would act or behave differently,” says Táňa. However, when I ask whether she thinks Eliška is overreacting, Táňa answers: “I think in this problem it is sometimes important to overreact if you want to be heard, and I am grateful for people like that even if I am not one of them.”

“Who can blame me for talking about the apocalypse, when I just … I warn against the planetary one, when the family apocalypse can no longer be stopped,” – Eliška. Photo Credit: Káťa Opuntia for Hadivadlo.

Hysteria versus passivity: where does Táňa find her own balance? “I try to follow my instincts. Depending on the case I am not afraid of using either one of them.” And, how does Táňa think Greta Thunberg and her famous “I want you to panic” are welcomed within the Czech society? “As everywhere, the generations that are closer to her take her more seriously. I mostly meet people that feel the same as her,” explains Táňa.

Art as a battlefield of the climate crisis

Táňa tells Brno Daily she hasn’t experienced this kind of argument with her loved ones. “In my family we don’t usually talk about this particular problem. But what I understood from the audience’s reactions, this problem is often discussed. So I feel something is really going on.” And does she think these conversations actually have the power to change people’s opinions? “I hope so!” And the theater? Does it have the power to move the lines of this battlefield? “For me art has always been one of the most powerful weapons to change things,” concludes Táňa.

This article was corrected on 13 June to make clear that the performance on 14 June will not be English-friendly. We apologise for any inconvenience.

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