THE DAY GAGARIN DIED
Two utopias with some in-between action, for three men and a woman.
Time and place of Utopia No. 1: 1968, the Bratislava-Vienna conurbation. Following a nuclear explosion people spend their entire lives locked in skyscrapers. Slovakia, a.k.a. the “Slovak Quadrant” has become part of the Eurasian Union since “former enemies have fraternised and the East reached out to the West.” Inequality has been eliminated and money abolished, everything belongs to everyone, all infectious diseases have been eradicated. We observe this utopia through the romantic and humorous eyes of a ten-year-old girl, β (“Betty”), born under the Atomium during the Brussels World Expo in 1958. “Betty” and her friends are expecting an illustrious visitor: Yuri Gagarin is coming to their 100-storey high-rise to give a lecture on the universe.
The in-between action takes place on the night of 27 March 1988 at the Russian base for SS-20 nuclear missiles, aimed at Western cities. On the 20th anniversary of Gagarin’s death, one year before the end of the cold war, a drunk plainclothes Slovak officer bullies a soldier on guard. He is shot by another soldier who is convinced this is an enemy intruder because he fails to give the correct password, which is Gagarin.
Time and place of Utopia No. 2: it is 2018 and Slovakia’s first astronaut is a crew member of a European space station. The Štefánik Modul, a part of ISS Europe, has run into trouble. The Slovak has to be sacrificed so that astronauts in other modules can be saved. The Russians could save him but Europe won’t allow them to do so. As a result, Vladimír goes to heaven where he meets Gagarin… History teaches us that to arrive in utopia you have to pass through dystopia. And our present is beginning to resemble such a dystopia.
A graduate of the Faculty of Medicine of the Comenius University in Bratislava, he practised anaesthesiology for nine years before switching to theatre and literature. He is the co-founder of the legendary and popularly acclaimed GUnaGU theatre in Bratislava and currently its artistic director and manager.
In addition to theatre plays, he has written plays for radio, as well as TV and film scripts. He has authored twenty books: novels, volumes of poetry, conceptual fairy tales and collections of texts for the theatre and, last but not least, over fifty plays.
A seven-fold recipient of the Alfréd Radok Prize for the best Czech or Slovak play, Viliam Klimáček is one of our most acclaimed playwrights. Apart from Slovakia, his plays have been staged in the Czech Republic, Austria and France. His most recent work includes Horúce leto 68 (The Hot Summer of 68), a novel about emigration from Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion, the TV film Nočný trezor (Night Safe), the opera libretto Haydn večeria s Mozartom (Haydn’s Dinner with Mozart), the ‘parallel’ novel Vodka a chróm (Vodka and Chrome) and the collection Trinásť hier (Thirteen Plays), published by the Slovak Theatre Institute.
He has never been a member of any political party. He has never mounted a barricade. He has never been a dissident. He demonstrates his political views by using his cursor not only for literary output but also as a commentator for the daily SME. So far he has never failed to cast his vote in an election.
His most frequently staged plays include Mária Sabína (1995), Čechov boxer (Chekhov the Boxer, 2000), Rozkvitli sekery (Blossoming Axes, 2001), Hypermarket (2002), Aupairky (The Aupairs, 2007), Dračí doupě (The Dragon’s Nest, 2007), Komunizmus (Communism, 2008), Jsem Kraftwerk! (I am Kraftwerk!, 2010), Kill Hill (2011), Beat (2012), Mutanti ( Mutants, 2012), Holokaust (Holocaust, 2012), and Nízkotučný život (Low Fat Life, 2013).