March 5, 2003. Zdeněk Adamec, an eighteen-year-old student from a small town halfway between Prague and Brno, sets out for the Czech capital. The next morning, he douses himself with petrol and sets himself on fire. In 1969, Jan Palach burnt himself to death in the same place to protest the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia. Just as Palach called himself “Torch No. 1”, Adamec labels himself the “The 2003 Torch” in the suicide note he posted online.
This drama is based on the implicit radicalism of Adamec’s action. Any justification or explanation of the action and its motives is destined to fail. Handke’s Zdeněk Adamec is not just another sad loser. He is not suffering from an existential crisis. He’s not a “maniac”.
He is Zdeněk Adamec and he doesn’t know his place in the world and its order.
English and German subtitles available
About the company
Divadlo Na zábradlí (Theatre on the Balustrade) was founded in 1958. Over a short period of time, the theatre has become a multi-generational venue with a uniquely intimate atmosphere and a loyal audience base. In 1959, the drama ensemble was joined by Ladislav Fialka’s pantomime troupe, which drew inspiration from the work of the French mime Marcel Marceau, who later took part in the International Pantomime Festival (Mezinárodní festival pantomime) held at Divadlo Na zábradlí. The pantomime ensemble was active at the theatre until 1994, when – three years after the death of Fialka – it finally ceased operations.
In 1962, Jan Grossman was named the artistic director of the theatre and, along with stagehand-turned-dramaturg and playwright Václav Havel and stage designer Libor Fára, he began to develop a Czech brand of absurdist theatre at Divadlo Na zábradlí. In addition to the world premieres of Václav Havel’s plays, the 1960s saw the production of works by the most important absurdist playwrights, such as Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano (Plešatá zpěvačka,1963), Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (Čekání na Godota, 1965) and the famous, internationally recognised production of Alfred Jarry’s King Ubu (Král Ubu) directed by Jan Grossman and starring Jan Libíček in the title role.
In the 1970s, the theatre offered asylum to renowned directors of the so-called Czech New Wave, such as Juraj Herz, Jiří Menzel, Jaromil Jireš, Jan Kačer, Ivan Rajmont and Evald Schorm, who faced bans on their activities. Political pressure eased with the end of the 1980s and a new era at Na zábradlí began in 1993, under the leadership of Doubravka Svobodová and artistic director Petr Lébl. After Lébl's tragic death in 1999, a number of important Czech directors worked at Divadlo Na zábradlí, including Jiří Pokorný, Jan Antonín Pitínský, Jan Nebeský, Jiří Havelka, Jan Frič, Juraj Nvota and David Czesany.
Since the 2013/14 season, the theatre has been led by Petr Štědroň (director), Dora Viceníková (artistic director) and Jan Mikulášek (in-house theatre director). Their dramaturgy foregrounds original productions, dramatisations of novels and radical interpretations of the classics. Divadlo Na zábradlí is a key venue on the Prague theatre map, presenting four premieres per year and making regular guest appearances at domestic and international venues and festivals. The theatre regularly performs in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Colombia, the USA and other countries.