King Matt the FirstDramatic performance, length 100 min

King Matt the First, photo Mankica Kranjec
King Matt the First is a story of a boy who, after the sudden death of his father, the King, ascends the throne. Despite his efforts to rule justly and as he sees fit, he cannot bypass the ministers and the parliament, concerned only with the interests of adults and not children. In order to meet the needs of all the inhabitants, he establishes a children’s parliament. But instead of matters getting resolved, they become even more complicated and so Matt comes to realise that government and democracy hide numerous traps and dilemmas that cannot be solved in a simple way.

The performance was created after the eponymous novel by Polish writer Janusz Korczak and adapted for the theatre by Ana Duša. It is about a boy, who takes up the throne after his late father – the King, when he is only eleven years old. Although he tries to rule according to his own intelligence and rightfulness, he is unable to avoid his ministers who are determined to do it their own way. In order to organize the country according to his people’s wishes, he decides to establish a children’s parliament.   

The performance, in which something similar happens as well - four children’s ministries are formed on the stage and the young people from the audience are invited to speak up -, tackles the issues of ruling, rightfulness, politics and balance of power. It is based on the assumption that children and younger adolescents represent an active part of the society, which is well aware of various - even the much less pleasant -, realities of our time, as well as capable of both social reflection and reflection about the world, into which they are growing up.

The novel King Matt the First (which was released in its Slovenian version Kralj Matevžek Prvi, translated by France Vodnik, by Mladinska knjiga in 1958) was first published in 1922. It quickly became one of the Polish best-selling books, which it remained until today. In his novel Korczak uses a fictitious story of a child king to depict the concurrent social relations in Poland and the rest of the world as well as the notion about the necessity and possibility of social change.  It raises such issues as war, international politics, economy and revolution. Due to the novel’s integration in the political reality after the First World War, some of the Korczak’s ideas seem out of date or even unacceptable, which does not invalidate his humanistic message, or call for a reasonable world order and belief that the simple children’s logic is often more accurate and above all much fairer from the adult, “mature”, political thought.  

The creators of this performance succeeded to preserve all of the above mentioned, despite the necessary modernisation and actualisation of the depicted social, political and economic reality and numerous references from the world of popular culture and social media, with which they tried to make the story more relevant to today’s youth audience.

Korczak's bond with children was not merely theoretical: he socialised with them as paediatrician, pedagogue and advocate of children's rights and director of the Orphanage for Jewish Children in Warsaw. Under his supervision children implemented some reforms in the orphanage, which he also describes in his novel, and published a children's newspaper as a regular supplement to one of the concurrent Polish newspapers. When Warsaw was occupied by the Nazis during the Second World War, the children were first moved to the ghetto together with the other Warsaw Jews, and later on taken to the Treblinka Concentration Camp.  At that time Korczak was already a much acclaimed and popular writer, therefore he was offered a possibility to save himself but, determined not to leave his children behind, he flatly refused it. He is believed to have died in the gas chamber, most probably soon after their arrival in the camp.  

Signed under the first Slovenian staging of Korczak's novel is Anja Suša, an internationally recognised theatre director from Belgrade, who has been regularly putting on stage performances as for children as well as for young people. She thus boasts a variety of awards and recognitions she won for her work both at home and abroad. She has so far directed in Slovenia three performances for the MGL (The Taming of the Shrew, Little Golden Shoes, Illusions) and for the LGL, in 2015, where she created (after the literary material by Lotte Faarup) a socially critical performance for young people Once We Got Lost, which received a Teenage Jury Award for the Best Performance for Young People at the Zlata Paličica Festival in 2017.   

The performance is not recommended for children younger than 8 years.

Premiere: 1th December 2017, Stage under the Stars LGL

Authors: Janusz Korczak, Ana Duša
Director: Anja Suša
Dramaturgy: Petra Pogorevc
Scenography, Costumography: Maja Mirković
Cast: Primož Ekart a. g., Voranc Boh, Rok Kunaver, Zala Ana Štiglic, Nina Ivanič, Urška Hlebec, Jan Bučar
Partisan choir: Iztok Kocen (Conductor), Josip Drabik Jug, Lovro Jakopina, Dušan Kulovec, Zvone Logar, Daro Majcen, Ignacij Marinko, Tonček Marn, Anton Potočnik, Jožef Roškar, Vincenc Tomažič, Mihael Usenik, Valentin Zibelnik
Arrangements and sound design: Laren Polič Zdravič
Choreography: Damjan Kecojević
Lighting design: Mats Öhlin
Proofread: Irena Androjna Mencinger
Stage manager and sound designer: Emil Koprivc
Lights: Srečo Brezovar
Set technicians: Klemen Sašek, Darko Nedeljković
Set, props and costumes production: Zoran Srdić, Iztok Bobić, Polona Černe, Zala Kalan, Sandra Birjukov, Marjetka Valjavec, Tereza Ondrůšková, Mojca Rodman, Špela Ulaga, Vladson, Uroš Mehle s. p., Domoprema Bobnar, Čevljarstvo Peta
Mask and wardrobe: Nina Jordanovski and Daša Jordanovski