Sorrow, Sorrow, Fear, the Rope and the Pit
HOŘE, HOŘE, STRACH, OPRÁTKA A JÁMA
GRIEF, GRIEF, FEAR, THE NOOSE AND THE PIT (A Dream)
4 women, 5 men
Steigerwald's oratorio, mourning for the dead, is one of the first plays to react to the collapse of Communist totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia at that time. It opens anew a theme from the 1950s, the Stalinist period of the most brutal purges, which were strictly taboo until 1989. The main inspirational source for Steigerwald was motifs from the life of the poet Osip Mandelstam, as described by Nadezhda Mandelstam in her book Hope Against Hope. The heroes of the play are people fleeing from the totalitarian regime which ruled in countries beyond the "Iron Curtain" for most of the last century. Nine characters live through their fates on territory reaching from Berlin to the Urals in the time of the Stalinist gulags of the 1930s up until the last assault of East German refugees on the West German Embassies in East European capitals in autumn 1989. The action of the separate periods of the totalitarian past emerge as dreamlike pictures and memories of fundamental life decisions in which moral victories and failures of characters were examined. In games of chess across the past as well as the poet Mandelstam who here symbolises the free and creative life, enters the poet who bargained away his art for a political career, the eternally frustrated malý aeský alovuk ("little Czech man") and the ever-present informer with his pistol - the driving force of the totalitarian power.
Fragments of the appalling events of totalitarianism confront each other chaotically, or in the logic of a gloomy dream, characters meet each other independently of the time in which they lived, are torn out of specific time, they accuse, defend themselves, they rail and ask for the meaning of their fate, but do not receive an answer. (Daria Ullrichová: Někdy stačí boj, Lidové noviny, 15. 1. 1991)
The characters of this play are neither individuals nor are they typical; each of them is primarily a unique semblance of history, an irreplaceable semblance with his or her exclusive vocabulary, behaviour and character. (Miroslav Petříček jr.: Paměť jako dramatický tvar, Přítomnost, 1991)