Opening February 2021
Gracious Comedy Quill Award 2020
Rok Vilčnik rokgre is a Slovenian writer, poet, playwright, director, screenwriter and dramaturg. His first book, Sanje (Dreams) was a collection of poetry, self-published in 1994. His literary output is not restricted by genre. He has authored poems, fairy tales, novels, radio and puppet plays, and, most notably and successfully, stage plays. His plays have been shortlisted for the national Grum Award for best new play five times: A Block (2001) Baalram (2012), Tarzan (2015), Our Theatre (2017) and Bigger Than All (2018). He won the Grum Award three times: This (2000), Garbage on the Moon (2008), and People's Democratic Circus Sakeshvili (2016). His mono-comedy Pavlek won the national Gracious Comedy Quill Award in 2004, and the staging of Pavlek received the best production award at the 5th Monodrama Festival in Ptuj. In 2014, Vilčnik was presented with the Glazer Charter for his achievements in the field of culture. His plays are produced on a regular basis in Slovenia and internationally (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina). Three of them were staged in the season 2019/20: Bigger Than All (Prešeren Theatre Kranj, opening in February 2020), The Post Office (Drama SNT Maribor, opening in February 2020), and Hit of the Season (Ptuj City Theatre, postponed due to corona pandemic). True Heroes, a truly acerbic comedy, won the Gracious Comedy Quill Award in 2020.
In consumer society, funeral business can be a lucrative business. Ingemar Ferš knows it all too well, so he wants to turn his private cemetery in Maribor into a graveyard elysium and call it Eternal Luxury, the cutting-edge funereal resort in Europe. The cemetery will have to be moved to a new location in order to lay out a mass grave site for home guard members (anti-communist collaborationist troops of the Second World War). Next to the relocation site a pothole filled with bones of the partisans is discovered. A laborious job of separating bones of the home guard members from the rest of the pile as well as the relocation itself is assigned to the limp one-legged Canek. A pack of hungry dogs has snatched off the home guard bones, so Ferš has a brainwave to refill the mass grave with the partisan bones that Canek has discovered on the new location. “Bones are bones, they aren’t people, they only make us quarrel,” says Ferš, “it’s high time we buried them.” The new burial site needs to be laid out in haste, as the president of the republic, government officials, historians and television crews have been invited to attend the commemoration.
Canek lives with his gran who has been taking care of him since he was a child. He worships Batman like God. According to him, God does nothing but prohibit and punish, whereas Batman beats the hell out of the bastards and helps the poor and the destitute. Moreover, Batman doesn't need money because he's very rich and owns a flashy Batmobile, whereas God doesn't even have a car. Canek is sifting through the bones, failing to sort them out. Meanwhile, his boss is having his bit of fun with Lilika, Canek’s romantic interest. One night, Batman unexpectedly visits Canek and promises to turn him into the best of lovers. He asks him to be his sidekick instead of Robin. When moving two corpses awaiting burial to the new cemetery, Canek has a car accident, and the corpses in the car burn down. Dr. Žnuderl wants to say goodbye to the corpse of a young woman, a relative of his, who choked to death with a ring hidden in a pudding at her engagement party. Ferš persuades Lilika to act dead. The plot thickens after Lilika “resurrects from death” and Žnuderl is hit by a stroke.
True Heroes is an acerbic black comedy dealing with numerous neuralgic points of contemporary Slovenian society in a candid and unrestraint manner. These include selling-out state-owned property to foreigners, wild privatization, ongoing and constant strife between the lefties and the right-wingers, the us-and-them divide, traumatic and unresolved views of recent history, exploitation of the little man, dodgy business deals, consumerism gone wild, power-hunger, and politics. The comedy, written in Maribor dialect from the perspective of the little man struggling to survive, sets a mirror to contemporary Slovenian life: everything is for sale, it is no longer clear who are the executioners and who are the victims, profit making has become the order of the day, and people are considered nothing but a liability. A living person is but a burden, while a corpse may generate profit. It is a society in which Ferš’s idea of setting up a modern funeral resort offering a discount for the burial of a child can easily flourish. Every funeral is a picnic. In a dehumanized world the only consolation for the little man is a belief in a Batman-like superheroes and escape into fantasy. It is easy to be a hero if you are rich and possess supernatural powers. But how can one be a hero if you have neither money not superpowers? If you are an ordinary person, lonely and abandoned, exploited and disliked, while you still love people and believe they are genuinely good? Therefore, true heroes are ordinary people who, despite the injustices that occur to them on a daily basis, keep faith in their fellow human beings.
Vilčnik’s dialogues are cruel and hilarious. Their inherent truthfulness frightens us and makes us laugh at the same time. His characters are made of flesh and blood, each fighting their own fight, struggling to survive at all costs.
True Heroes is an indigenous Slovenian play laying bare many faults of contemporary Slovenian society – our subservient attitude towards foreigners and our inferiority complex which remains one of the basic characteristics of the Slovenian nation, our unresolved views of our own history, ruthless capitalism ravaging infinitely, a general decline of our political establishment to the point that anyone who desires to do so can usurp power, as well as a constant struggle of the little man against the cruelty of everyday reality. To believe in superheroes seems to be the only way out of this predicament. Amazingly, Vilčnik manages to make us roll in the aisles.