The playwright and stage director Hanoch Levin (1943-1999) was one of the leading figures of Israeli theatre and public life in general. In the 1960s and 1970s, his provocative political cabarets and comedies aroused enthusiasm but also resulted in huge protests on the part of religious and political conservatives, whereas his mature plays dating from the 1980s and 1990s form the core of the Israeli “classic” repertory. It is thus all the more surprising that Czech theatres have to date not staged a single Levin work, and thus The Labour of Life will be his very first play to be presented in our country. It was written in 1981 and premiered in 1989 at the Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv. The story is quite simple: one night, an ageing man wakes up with the feeling that he has wasted his life, decides to leave his wife, and wakes her up to tell her. The husband and wife enter into an impassioned dialogue, replete with pleas, mutual threats, reproaches and accusations. Their argument is interrupted by a neighbour, who explains to the couple what it means to be truly alone...
The play affords extraordinary opportunities for three elderly actors. It is a grim, in places bitterly philosophical, contemplation of the futility of all human action and endeavour, as well as the necessity to face this frustration with all possible means. Applying minimal linguistic means, Levin evokes a forcible and poetic atmosphere, and the palpable, physically oppressive feeling of absurdity. Yet the play does not lack humour, albeit of the black and harsh variety. The Czech premiere of Levin’s work promises to be a distinct, thematically and formally unique dramatic experience.