I Saw Her That Night
Slovene National Theatre Maribor, Cankarjev dom, Burgtheater (Austria), Yugoslav Drama Theatre (Serbia)
|05.04.2022||at 18:00||Slovene National Theatre (SNT) Maribor||
Director: Janez Pipan
Set designer: Marko Japelj
Video: Vesna Krebs
Costume designer: Leo Kulaš
Composer: Milko Lazar
Musical adaptations and repetiteur: Robert Mraček
Lighting designer: Andrej Hajdinjak
Choreography and martial arts: Sergio Moga
Language consultant: Metka Damjan
Nataša Matjašec Rošker
Aleš Valič k. g.
About the performance
A large co-production between Drama SNT Maribor, Burgtheater Wien, Yugoslav Drama Theatre, and Cankarjev dom Ljubljana presents I Saw Her That Night, undoubtedly one of the biggest world-premiere stagings in the history of Slovenian theatre. A compelling and well-thought stage adaptation of Drago Jančar's eponymous novel was created by the director, dramaturg, intellectual and university professor at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (University of Ljubljana), Janez Pipan.
This co-production is not a fortuitous outcome of random events and connections but rather a logical consequence of the novel's narrative. Namely, all five narrators, who are telling the extraordinary life story of Veronika Zarnik from each own's perspective, are of different nationalities: a Serbian (military) officer Stevan (Veronika's lover), Veronika's mother suffering from dementia, a German doctor, a Slovenian housekeeper Joži, and an aged partisan Jeranek. Even though their individual stories reveal only a part of the whole reality, they intersect and provide an intriguingly entangled narrative imbued with love, jealousy, courage, as well as cruelty, treason, and other human weaknesses and vices.
A love story between Veronika and Stevan, as depicted in the novel, as well as the turmoil of war and Veronika's fate, are just waymarks to extremely evoking, intense and at moments shocking story with its striking staging potential. To present such a complex story onstage, one does not require only a brilliant staging concept, but, foremost, life experience, erudition, open-mindedness, as well as love and respect for all that is human and fragile.
In his interview with Maja Borin for the programme, Janez Pipan mentioned that "Veronika is one and only, always different and the other from the one being remembered or dreamed by the narrators. What is the actual connection between these narrators and Veronika? They were absent when they should be there, there were silent when they should scream, and they were weak and coward when they should be brave; they have all betrayed her, each in one's own way, and yet they were left alone and with nothing after the war and revolution that followed. They have lost their world, their freedom and humanity; some of them even lost their conscience, too. Jančar has written (as so many times before) a story of such people. His novel I Saw Her That Night is a perspective the defeated people harbour on great historical events."
Drago Jančar is a truly colossal figure of Slovenian literature and a time-transcending master narrator who has addressed many sensitive topics – spiritual and physical wounds – that run deep among the inhabitants of Slovenia within the broader cultural space called Central Europe. Jančar's novel I Saw Her That Night has already been translated into more than twenty languages. The novel won its third "Kresnik" award and "Kresnik" of the decade. In addition, the work was declared the best foreign book by the French literary critics' and publishers' association, and just in December 2015, the German translation of the novel topped the book rankings by the Austrian critics, as featured on the Austrian Radio and Television, ORF.
In an interview with Andrej Jaklič, Drago Jančar pointed out several intriguing facts about the creation of the novel: "In the beginning, there was a real-life story of a woman, such as in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, who was actually named Delphine Delamare, or in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, the narrative of which was modelled upon the life of Anna Stepanovna Pirogova. In my case, it was Ksenija Hribar. Her life, especially her tragic end, has deeply upset me, and somehow, I had a strong feeling that I would write about her one day. When I decided to speak of her through the eyes of others, I had already ventured into peculiar optics, a kind of hovering over people and historical time. And yet, perhaps this was the key element to the formation of the universal literary language you are referring to, which has entailed several translations that have rendered this essentially local and intimate story universally appealing to many readers across the globe."
"Pipan transforms the novelesque narrative of five individual stories into a vivid, three-dimensional staging in three acts with the skilful alternation of monologues and scenography, presentation and representation. The principle is simple but flawless."
(Peter Rak, Delo, 28 September 2021)
The production is 4 hours long and has two intervals.