Romantične duše/Romantic Souls
Romanticne duse (Romantic Souls) is the first play written by the most celebrated Slovene playwright Ivan Canker (b.1876-d.1918). Although it was written in 1897, the play was not published for the first time until 1922, after the author’s death. That same year, it was produced at the most prominent repertory theatre in Slovenia, SNG Drama Ljubljana for the first time. Due to its dramaturgical and technical imperfections, Cankar’s play is quite open to a contemporary theatrical approach, which has been successfully demonstrated by an award winning production directed by Sebastian Horvat in 2007.
The plot of Romantic Souls is rich and complex. It tells the story of the idealized love of the main characters, Dr. Mlakar and Pavla Zarnikova, whose world views are original and extraordinary. Both are aware that they are somehow incompatible with the world, and they see a solution in the idea of longing, or yearning. Along with these characters, Cankar presents the social and political reality of Slovenia – Dr. Mlakar turns away from the public and politics, but the political mills continue grinding and the people behind the scenes keep scheming. The motifs of betrayal and escape are at the core of the kinds of conflicts that Cankar wrote about in his later plays. These two motifs serve as a kind of matrix for and source of his entire dramatic opus.
Jakob Ruda (Jakob Ruda) is one of the earliest plays written by the father of modern Slovene theatre, Ivan Canker (1876-1918). The play exhibits Cankar’s early style when he was torn between the influences of dramatic giant Henrik Ibsen’s realism and the magical realism of one of the most prominent playwrights of the turn of the century, Maurice Maeterlinck.
The plot revolves around a wealthy industrialist who commits unethical deeds in order to save his flailing financial situation. He sacrifices the happiness and freedom of his daughter and end up burdened by guilt. The play is a harrowing foreshadowing of the future that Slovenia goes trough after the second world war, where thousands of innocent victims were killed in order to suppress rebellion and build a united country for future generations, the past that haunts Slovenia to this day.
Za Narodov Blagor/For the Good of the Nation
Za Narodov Blagor is a satire about political corruption, moral degradation of society and the fight for power. It depicts a political battle for power between two parties eager to attract the support of a rich donor. The play exposes the loss of ethical standards of all parties involved and investigates complex relations between political candidates, journalists, and bureaucrats.
Although the play was written in 1901, in the play remains fresh and relevant even 120 years later.
Kralj na Betajnovi/The King of Betajnova
The King of Betajnova is a psychological drama about a ruthless Nietzschean character and his morally superior but defeated opponent. In this socially critical play most celebrated Slovene playwright Ivan Canker builds a profound analysis of political power. The plot centres around Kantor, a rich innkeeper who has his brother murdered and later sends his niece, the only lawful heir, to a convent as mentally deranged in order to get a hold of the property of his brother. When an idealistic student, Max Krnec, attempts to stop Kantor in his sinister deeds, he is also murdered. The authorities and the local priest are afraid to bring Kantor to justice; instead, they aid him in amassing capital by immoral means.
Pohujšanje v dolini Šentflorjanski
Pohujšanje v dolini Šentflorjanski is a farce written in 1907. Pohujšanje is considered one of Cankar’s best plays, depicting a conflict between a mob and a free thinking individual. In this highly symbolic play Cankar also explores the relationship between an artist and his audience. Cankar’s play reveals the tension between the idea to conform and to rebel. He vividly brings to life a world of a small minded village, symbolizing Slovenia, growing impatient and petty with an artist, an individual who refuses to conform to their silly demands, lies and intrigues. The play is a challenging piece for directors and due to its symbolic quality gets frequently staged in Slovenian professional theatres.
Hlapci is considered one of the canonical texts of Slovene drama. The play provokes, raises essential questions and requires a constant in-depth reflection about the idea of Slovene nation, a nation that spent most of history repressed under several empires.
Cankar was initially determined to write a political satire, but, in the third act, his satirical play suddenly turned into »a tragedy«, as he himself described it, reflecting on the realization of a long historic positions of Slovenes under several other nations, and political entities.
The story depicts a tormenting struggle of the main protagonist, the progressive school teacher Jerman, a decent intellectual of high moral standards, forced to retreat in the face of political pragmatism, self-centred pretension, abuses of power and manipulations. Published in 1910, The Serfs caused an immediate scandal and gave rise to indignation and outrage, resulting in the censor’s ban on staging the play. Thus it was first produced after Cankar’ death, in 1919, in Trieste, and later in Zagreb, and finally, on 11 December 1919, on the premises of the present-day SNT Drama Ljubljana.
With its ambiguous and evocative title, the play has remained a paradigmatic text repeatedly used to describe Slovenian political situation and a collective attitude to the authorities. Frequently analyzed and quoted, it’s selected passages have acquired various meanings, ranging from a devastating critique of Slovenian national character to the slogans of emancipation and patriotism. Several characters from the play have become synonyms for people of principle, decency and high moral standards, or, conversely, for the absence thereof and laxity. Cankar’s unforgiving diagnosis of the nation continues to provoke to this day, making the Serfs a steady repertoire piece of several Slovene professional theatre.
Lepa Vida/Fair Vida
Lepa Vida is a play about longing for a better life featuring one of the best known female characters in Slovene literature. Cankar wrote the play in 1912 but the story of a young woman who longs for a life different from her daily reality can be traced back to the middle ages. The theme of longing in Slovene literature and the story of Lepa Vida originates from a folk song with many variants which in the course of time, and with each new author’s view, assumed further layers. So far there have been 43 literary variations on the Fair Vida theme.
Vida is a young woman, usually depicted with an old husband and a baby. She frequently sits by the water, washing her child’s linens longing for a better, different, exciting life across the sea. One day a foreigner sails his ship into the bay. Vida falls in love with the man and agrees to follow him to a distant land. Once in the foreign land, Vida starts to miss her child and her husband growing more and more depressed and lost in longing for what she doesn’t have.
The theme of longing for greener grass elsewhere is considered one of the central themes unique to Slovene character. Cankar’s take on the theme in his play is both symbolic and naturalistic. The play’s style could be compared to the work of August Stringer and Henrik Ibsen, especially in establishing a central female character in Slovene dramatic tradition.