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“What I Find Interesting Is the Desire to Make One’s Own Existence Easier”

On Saturday, 22 June, the VéNégy Festival and Theatre Meeting will present Blackout Paradox and MansterVille street theatre companies from the Czech Republic in a joint production entitled Recombination, a unique combination of contemporary theatre and a spectacular, breathtaking fire show. The story of a genius professor who seeks to control the laws of nature in order to create better, more perfect beings than humanity, but his experiment spirals out of control and leads to disaster for himself and his „children”. Michaela Hradecká, dramaturg of Blackout Paradox and author of the play, who herself will be appearing on stage in the production, told us about the production and its background. Interview!

You founded the Blackout Paradox artistic ensemble in 2017 with Michael Bartizal. What were the motivations behind the creation of the ensemble, were there any inspirations worth mentioning – to educate our readers about this kind of street theatre productions?

It was primarily Michael’s idea to start the ensemble. We collaborated with other projects, but couldn’t fully realise our ideas in terms of creativity. Michael’s dream was to create a space in which all members work together on the group’s improvement, share their skills, and want to profile themselves not only with artistic performances, but ideally also want to convey a message or emotion through the art. Thanks to his work as a lecturer he met the people who are now the core of our ensemble.

What artistic background did you personally come from, what influences turned you towards such productions instead of or in favour of – let’s say – traditional theatre?

I studied puppetry and then non-verbal theatre. I’ve always gravitated more towards original work. It’s been more interesting for me to perform outdoors or in non-traditional spaces. My coming to fire was was quite unplanned and even punkish when, due to bad weather, I couldn’t dance on stilts at a festival and a colleague of mine approached me to see if I wanted to perform with fire as part of her show (which I did at the time, completely ignorant of any fire safety – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend that to anyone today!!! More luck than sense. 🙂 However, I was enthralled at the time and have been thinking ever since how to include this discipline into my creative process. And that’s exactly what I do today and what’s my main task within the ensemble. Dramaturgy and directing.

What are the challenges and tasks that could be special or even surprising to the audience in turning such a show of fire juggling and other pyrotechnics into a full story-telling performance?

I can’t really speak from the audience’s perspective, but I can give you an idea about the performers’, and for us it’s always a challenge to play with fire. After all, it’s a wild element and despite all the preparation and skills it can still surprise us – for better or worse. Probably the biggest challenge is to keep the characters and develop the storyline while maintaining the quality of the artistry. It’s definitely an adrenaline rush. But because of this, the performers are completely focused, and the amount of energy put into each performance definitely leaves some sort of emotional mark on the audience.

In general, what kind of reactions do you get from the type of audience that comes across a Blackout Paradox performance for the first time?

Mostly we have very positive feedback. Often we hear that people were expecting a “classic” fireshow, and that our performance surprised them a lot.

I have seen on your social media platforms that you sometimes have really innovative sets, such as inflatable jellyfish and other sea animals, alongside pyrotechnics, but unlike a traditional theatre company, you often have to create them in venues that could be unfamiliar or new to you, such as the VéNégy Festival will be. How can you prepare for a show on a festival like these, for example?  

We work very closely with Artprom and VOSA theatre, which created the edition of glowing puppets you mentioned and presented them at the Expo in Dubai. Michael was involved in the production and light installation. Working with puppets is definitely a diversification and expansion of the ensemble’s repertoire. Festivals and street theatre events are the main venues of our work as we’re primarily involved in outdoor performance. Over the years, it’s been more about the technical details that production works out long in advance.

The story of Recombination is – at least as it seems to me – somewhat allegorically dealing with contemporary issues such as genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, the relationship between ever more perfect machines/beings and the man who creates them and who thinks of himself as a kind of mortal god, if you like. Can you tell us about the inspirations for the story and how can we imagine its performance is practice?

No need for correction. Indeed, that is one of the themes of this show. What I find interesting is the desire to make one’s own existence easier, which, in the case of our story, gets out of the hands of the scientist. However, we tried to approach these themes in a light-hearted way, and therefore chose the grotesque genre. I am very fond of literature and sci-fi films, so there was no shortage of inspiration. Anton Eliáš, who plays the main character, co-wrote the script with me and then directed the whole show. We are bringing a special version of the performance to the VéNégy festival, which we rehearsed with Vojta Štulc and his group MansterVille – his kinetic, fiery object is the main part of the show’s scenography. Visitors should definitely not miss the show, I firmly believe we have a lot to offer.

What can the audience of the VéNégy Festival expect from Blackout Paradox, and what do you expect from the Hungarian audience and performing in Hungary?

From us – definitely lots of fire and fun!!! And we hope for a friendly welcome, and that festival visitors will enjoy our performance

Where and what performances can we see in the next few months, what are your plans for the near future? 

This summer we perform mainly at Czech festivals, because simultaneously we also prepare a premiere of our newest show ‘Creation’ inspired by the antic myths, which should be out early September.

Tickets and more information on the VéNégy Festival and Theatre Meeting website and social media!

Az interjú magyar változatáért kattints ide!

Pics: Blackout Paradox Facebook

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