Here is Here: Offering visitors a unique theatrical experience

'Here is Here', photo: official Facebook page of Moravian Gallery in Brno

A new production entitled Here is Here is getting a lot of attention for its combination of genres from social to documentary theatre. Performed at three buildings of the Moravian Gallery in Brno, the tour lasts an hour-and-a-half and makes use of both historical fact and fiction.

'Here is Here', photo: official Facebook page of Moravian Gallery in Brno
I spoke to the project’s creator and director Jiří Honzírek and asked him he saw the production across genres.

“I think that in many ways it is the border between performance art and documentary theatre: we use a number of documentary sources, materials, which we work with and we also employ fiction in this case about these three particular buildings and their past. So it is on the border between art and documentary.”

Did you have any set ideas going in or was it more the case that, as the director, you wanted to push the boundaries and ‘let’s see where this goes’?

“Well the starting point was the history of the history of the three buildings and that was what we used: we had some facts at our disposal and from that we moved forward into the fictional world. As far as the performance goes, I say openly that we are not performing FOR people but with them. Maximum capacity is 26: more than that would be too difficult, to lead everyone from building to building, through the city.”

Important keywords, I suppose are ‘interactive’ or ‘site-specific’; is part of the production an attempt to shaking up perception?

Jiří Honzírek, photo: official Facebook page of Moravian Gallery in Brno
“Exactly. For one thing, we are working with peoples’ expectations, what they anticipate when they go to a regular theatre production, when they are sitting in the theatre. We want to stand that on its head: not to be passive but to part of the ‘reality’, the situation or on the border between observer and actor.”

It must be equally fascinating for you and the others who put together the production as you can never know in advance what you will get and what the outcome will be. Whether the participants will be up to the task, so to speak?

“Well certainly every one of the events is different. Just recently we had a group which was mostly women and it was a very unusual dynamic. It was a very sensitive group and they were very active and they behaved in unexpected ways. They also gave us a lot of questions we can work on the next performances.”

One aspect is the rooms in the buildings themselves which have certain visual dynamics and dramatic potential; another is the fictional thread which builds on two of the sisters who used to live at one of the sites.

'Here is Here', photo: official Facebook page of Moravian Gallery in Brno
“That’s right. We knew of a family of four – parents with two daughters who used to live on the first floor – but a lot of the information was scant and we couldn’t find much more. So the fictional story evolved from that. I should point out that the story was not written with a goal in mind, in came from spending a lot of time in the buildings, we were looking for connections between this family and the space, between the space and the city, and the space and the other two buildings which make up the Moravian gallery. It is all about the context: this story between the sisters, that is the site specific moment, site specific inspiration which we got in this case.”

One of the dramatic turning points is the tragic death of one of the sisters, which is visualized.

“That’s right – one of them dies falling from the stairs in the middle of the building.”

You talked about the 26 people who take part along with the actors: this is without a doubt a ‘shared experience’, isn’t it. This is something that participants go through together and will remember, at least in part, through that prism.

“Yes. Over the 90 minutes they start with completely new relationships, they get new friends. At the end of the performance we sit around a big table and eat dinner, drinking water, and talk about the experience and the world. The other day it was simply like magic: people stayed for two hours after until 11 PM and talked, many exchanging phots and email addresses and so on. So it is shared and I think it is also something like social theatre, good neighbours and theatre ‘for good living in the city’. Something shared.”

'Here is Here', photo: official Facebook page of Moravian Gallery in Brno
I like the name of the production – Here is Here – it resonates. To me it speaks to one place in one point in time…

“I think in our lives we are always ‘moving’. From flat to flat, from marriage to children, we are very often looking for something new, to always be in a new moment. And consequently, we are not ‘reading’ spaces deeply, not enough. I wanted to give audiences an opportunity to be in ‘stopped time’. Here is here and that’s enough. To tell them: Here is here and you don’t need other worlds or another context.”