In 2017 November, an extraordinary premiere was held at the State Youth Theatre in Vilnius (Vilniaus Valstybinis Jaumino Teatras). After 26 years, the director, Eimuntas Nekrošius, returned to the very theatre where he began his creative career. In 1977, fresh from his studies at the Russian Academy of the Theatre Arts in Moscow, he staged Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey, a classic of British drama (1958). With the exception of a two-year stay in Kaunas, Nekrošius worked at the State Youth Theatre in Vilnius till 1991, and contributed, alongside Artistic Director Dalia Tamuleviciutė, to the theatre’s most critically acclaimed productions. Nekrošius’ The Square (1980), Pirosmani, Pirosmani (1982), The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years (1983), and Uncle Vanya (1986) first made a name for themselves in the Soviet Union, and then made waves on the European theatre circuit. Dubbed “Baltic Robert Wilson”, Nekrošius toured the United States with Uncle Vanya, while Arthur Miller visited Vilnius to meet the director. In 1991, Nekrošius staged his final play at the State Youth Theatre in Vilnius – Gogol’s The Nose, a self-parody that summarises the Lithuanian’s then current creative phase. At that stage, he departed bitterly disappointed and mentally tormented by an artistic block that inhibited his work on several never-to-be-finished projects, including King Lear. After cutting his ties with the Jaumino stage, Nekrošius produced his plays in partnership with Ruta Vanagaitė’s LIFE Theatre Festival, and later on founded Meno Fortas, his own arts institution. He worked at the National Theatre (Nacionalinnis Dramos Teatras) and at the Vilnius Opera, but avoided any further work at the State Youth Theatre. “Too many memories, too many phantoms”, he told the journalists. He returned to Arkliu Street in Vilnius – to the theatre’s headquarters – the moment Audronius Liūga was appointed Managing Director.

As a prose adaptation, The Zinc (Zn), based on excerpts from three books of Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian Nobel Laureate, belongs to a rare strand of Nekrošius’ work. Previously, the director adapted only the prose work of Lithuanian Saulius Šaltenis, Kyrgyz Chinghiz Aitmatov, Franz Kafka, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. In Nekrošius’ version, the texts not only are the record of the Soviet world but become meditations on the role and the attitude to reality as well. It no accident that Svetlana Alexievich appears on stage – she is one of the protagonists. Prior to The Zinc (Zn), Nekrošius only twice inserted the author of the work he adapted as a protagonist on stage: in The Divine Comedy and in The Forefathers’ Eve, where – respectively – Dante and Mickiewicz acted as cicerones through the theatre 


On April 26, 1986, at 1:23:58 am – a series of explosions obliterated the reactor and the building of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Unit No. 4. As a result of the Chernobyl disaster, the country lost 485 villages and settlements. Today, every fifth citizen of Belorussia is a resident of a contaminated area. Altogether, 2.1 million people, of whom 700 thousand children.

What is this book about? Why did I write it? This is not a book about Chernobyl, but about the world of Chernobyl. About what I would call a missed story, the invisible traces of our presence on earth and in time. A mysterious experience. This sensation permeates every inch and every pore: our conversations, our actions, our fears, and follow-up events. Terrible events. Everyone has an expressed or unspoken feeling that we’ve been touching the unknown. Chernobyl is a secret that we will still need to unravel and disclose. Unbearable baggage. Perhaps it is a riddle for the twenty-first century – a challenge. It has become clear that apart from the communist past, and challenges that we are yet to face in the future and survive, apart from national and religious issues, there are more rigorous and inclusive matters ahead. For the time being, however, they remain in the dark. But someone spoke in the wake of Chernobyl… Sometimes it seems to me that I am writing the future…

Svetlana Alexievich, Chernobyl Prayer / Voices from Chernobyl

The withdrawal of Soviet combatant forces from Afghanistan took place on 15 February 1989. The Red Army soldiers returned to Russia: some of them encased in zinc coffins, carried aboard planes codenamed GRUZ 200, while others returned home via specialist hospitals – physically and psychologically maimed, they often failed to accommodate themselves to civilian life. The war veterans, “the Afghans” – as they were often called – not infrequently ended up as homeless drunks and druggies, as henchmen for crime syndicates or as murderers sentenced to incarceration in Siberian gulags, found guilty of killing relatives or innocent passers-by. Svetlana Alexievich’s Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from a Forgotten War is based on the stories told by the friends, wives, and mothers of soldiers who served in the Red Army and duly participated in special combat operations in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989.


The title “zinc” is a primary constituent fusing together the stories from Afghanistan with narratives from Chernobyl. Indispensable to human life, the chemical element in Nekrošius’ play becomes not only a by-product of technological advancement, an unwanted cultural splinter, but primarily the symbol of the end of life during war and in the post-apocalyptic times. The dawn and the twilight of mankind neatly fit into a succinct chemical formula – Zn.

The Zinc (Zn) is the last but one performance created by Eimuntas Nekrošius in Lithuania.



Meno Fortas of Eimuntas Nekrošius – exhibition

Eimuntas Nekrošius: Pushing the Horizon Further – documentary film

The Corridor – film



Nekrošius’ theatrical language is unmistakably his – not to be confused with any other. In The Zinc, the theatre is born the moment the curtain rises, stringing numerous details and various etudes on a thread. Linked together, all the episodes create an eerie mirage. A mirage of life. (…)

Time in The Zinc does not really have a strictly defined boundary – “now” and “then” melt down, fusing into a fantasy about what was, will be, or could be. In a series of short but highly emotive episodes – each of which treating of a different “witness”, the face of an actor-protagonist makes us listen keenly to the story, makes us look closely at the facial expressions. However, only briefly as we are in transit and with each single step we are conscripted into a new narrative. Kabul and Chernobyl – the most important events of Alexievich’s books, which opened the mouths of the people and made the writer a chronicler of the Great Utopia, turn into a set of symbolic links, framing the life of the actors and the protagonists of The Zinc.

Rasa Vasinauskaitė, Menufaktura

The art in Nekrošius’ oeuvre abounds in unique visual structures. The director is capable of creating the “flight” of a helicopter using a pair of rotating hands, and of nimbly turning a twisted cassette tape into brain ganglia. (…) Eimuntas Nekrošius has not been on the lookout for “new forms” or “new content” for quite some time. Being an outstanding artist, he warns that we are not able to valorise endless wars. Nekrošius’ Zinc breathes hot dust: “Just do not tell me that this war has ended.

Daiva Šabasevičienė, 7 meno dienos