Literary work of Serbian playwright and screenwriter Đorđe Lebović (1928-2004) was indelibly marked by his harrowing experience of concentration camps. Being Jewish, he was at the age of fifteen deported to German concentration camps Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen. A holocaust survivor he returned to Belgrade and began studying at the Technical Faculty, but soon transferred to the Philological Faculty. After his graduation he first worked as a curator at the Museum of Theatre Arts, and later became the artistic director of the Belgrade Drama Theatre. He was the founder and the first president of the Playwrights Association of Serbia. He wrote theatre plays, radio and television plays and screenplays, most famously for Walter defends Sarajevo and A Partisan Squadron. His theatre and radio plays were staged and broadcast in Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Great Britain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and the United States. He was the recipient of several Sterijino pozorje theatre festival awards which he won for A Heavenly Detachment (together with Aleksandar Obrenović), Halelujah and Victoria. He was honoured with the International Prix Italia prize. His Searching in the Ashes was awarded the Italian Press Association prize. He also won several awards at the Yugoslav radio plays festivals.
Aleksandar Obrenović (1928-2005) was a Serbian playwright who graduated at the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade and began working as a journalist and dramaturg. In 1961 he became the first artistic director of the eminent Sterijino pozorje theatre festival. He wrote plays, screenplays and adaptations, and was much involved in stage and film directing and painting. He was the recipient of two Sterijino pozorje awards (for A Heavenly Detachment together with Đorđe Lebović, and for Shadows and Variations together with Miodrag Pavlović), and of the International Prix Italia prize for his radio play A Bird. His work has been translated and published in more than twenty countries.
Đorđe Lebović wrote A Heavenly Detachment with Aleksandar Obrenović. It is based on Lebović’s personal experience in the German concentration camp Auschwitz during World War II. A new group of prisoners arrives in the camp. They are given thirty days to live, during which they would be gassing and then cremating the transports of deportees and, in the end, be gassed and burned themselves. One section of the group throws Zyklon B gas into gas chambers, while the others burn corpses. What enfolds is a sequence of events and a development of characters in shocking and brutal living conditions. Confronted by human transience and the proximity of their own mortality, the group begins to organize an escape. The play highlights a turning point in the mind of a person who under duress chooses to act in the service of evil in order to preserve one’s life under the most inhumane conditions. It raises a question of how far one is willing to go to preserve one’s life and save oneself.
In 1956 A Heavenly Detachment received the Sterija Award for best new play. In 1961 it was turned into a feature film with the same title.
Translator Aleksandra Rekar
Director Juš A. Zidar
Dramaturg Tina Kosi
Set Designer Valentin Tribušon
Costume Designer Mateja Fajt
Composer Jurij Alič
Lighting Designer Andrej Hajdinjak
Language Consultant Jože Volk
Green man Vojko Belšak
No. 58964 Damjan M. Trbovc
Muselmann – clerk Andrej Murenc
Prominent – government advisor Branko Završan
Man underneath the cap – watchmaker David Čeh
Wounded man – newsboy Petja Labović
S. K. – sculptor Aljoša Koltak
Old man – literature professor Igor Žužek
Opening 12 May 2017
Performance duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes. No interval.