Krystian Lupa Place des héros / Heroes’ Square

[Didvyrių Aikštė] by Thomas Bernhard


Krystian Lupa’s first performance of Place des héros took place at the National Theatre of Lithuania in Vilnius on the 27th March, a day specially dedicated to theatre. Indeed, theatre is one of the recurring themes in this final work by Thomas Bernhard, as well as that of Austria, and the base opinion the author has of his own country, populated, as he sees it, by a rabble of nazis and anti-Semites. In the piece, the author poses the question, in a very direct way, of Austria’s responsibility in the Anschluss. The effect was clearly a jibe at the Burgtheater, since Claus Peymann, its director at the time, had commissioned Bernhard to write this piece as part of the theatre’s anniversary celebrations. Condemnation and biting criticism of Austrian society comes from the circle of family and friends of Professor Schuster, who has committed suicide by throwing himself out of a window overlooking Heroes’ Square in Vienna. It was in this same square that Hitler’s voice once rang out to clamoring crowds, and these voices still haunt the widow of the deceased professor. As they sit there waiting for her, nothing happens, and time seems to have come to a standstill. The individuals get ready for the funeral, and a dinner is held afterwards. Each of them recollects the “professor” - his hare-brained ideas, his pet hates, and appalling temper. His housekeeper, chambermaid at her side, and then his two sisters, brother, and colleagues. And then, at the very end, his widow.

Krystian Lupa excels in bringing to the stage relationships between individuals that often seem to be driven by jealousy and hatred. His stage design is dominated by a large window, situated up high, overlooking the square. The Lithuanian cast does full justice to the text, in terms of both comprehension and acting. They provide a fertile breeding ground for Lupa and what he strives for in theatre - microscopic introspection into human nature by calling upon the personalities of the actors themselves.