Coming up in this week’s Arts – a new opera that’s just premiered in Prague based on Communist Czechoslovakia's most notorious show trial. On June 27th, 1950 Milada Horáková - a democratic MP and campaigner for women's rights - was hanged on trumped-up charges of treason and espionage, despite appeals for clemency from world figures including Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein. This is the first attempt to bring one of the darkest periods of Czechoslovakia’s past to the stage.
Rehearsals for Václav Havel’s new play Leaving kicked off at Prague’s Archa Theatre last week, with the world premiere slated for May 22. The work is Mr Havel’s play in 18 years after an amazing career in politics, so it’s not surprising it is being greeted with excitement. Now it has also been announced that the Orange Tree Theatre in London will stage the English-language premiere of Leaving this autumn.
Tickets went on sale for former president Václav Havel’s much anticipated new play ‘Odcházení’ (‘Leaving’) on Monday. The first rehearsals of the production also got underway at Prague’s Divadlo Archa. The play will be premiered on May 22, with subsequent performances on the 23 and 24. The premiere was originally expected to have taken place much sooner, but production of the play was delayed when negotiations with several theatres broke down. Talks with the National Theatre collapsed in part over Mr Havel’s insistence that his wife play the female lead. The play was also withdrawn from the capital’s Divadlo na Vinohradech, before finding a home at Divadlo Archa.
Prague’s Divadlo na Zábradlí may be famous for staging former President Václav Havel’s plays, but over the next couple of months, it will be playing host to something rather different. ‘Láska je love, love is láska’ is a performance in two languages - about what happens when an American boy meets a Czech girl. The play is set to be performed for only the second time ever on Wednesday night, but in the run up to the show, I went along to find out more:
One of the legends of Czech theatre, the actor Radovan Lukavský, died on Monday at the age of 88. Lukavský’s renown was largely built on such performances as his 1960s Hamlet at the National Theatre, though many Czechs will remember him for his part in a 1970s TV adaptation of a novel by Alois Jirásek. Ruth Fraňková looks back at the life of one of the all-time great Czech actors.
If you want to see original English drama performed on a Czech stage, come to Prague’s Divadlo Minor this weekend. Saturday will see the premiere of this year’s three best plays selected by the jury of The Prague Post Playwriting Contest. The winners of the competition, organized by the English-language weekly, get the chance to see their plays produced by theatre professionals. I went to have a look at the last minute preparations at Divadlo Minor.
Julek Neumann is currently appearing at Prague’s Divadlo Ypsilon in a Mark Twain play which he himself translated into Czech. The new production marks his return to the theatre’s stage after a gap of nearly two and a half decades. In between he lived in Vienna and then London, where he worked for the Czech section of the BBC World Service during what was a period of change. When I met Julek Neumann in a café in Dejvice the other evening he first told me a little about his family background.
There are various marionette theatres in the Czech Republic but few which enjoy as cutting edge a reputation as Buchty a Loutky (Cake & Puppets), a troupe founded in Prague in the early 1990s which took Czech theatre in new directions. The group’s name is a take on the famous Bread & Puppet Theatre based in the US since the 1960s, known for serving free bread to the audience as a means of creating community. One of the group’s founders, Marek Becka, explains naming his troupe Buchty a Loutky was a bit of a joke, not without a measure of irony.
Babicka or The Grandmother by Bozena Nemcova is unquestionably one of the icons of Czech literature and, as a regular item on school reading lists, it is known to literally every Czech child. Published in 1855, the book saw more than 350 editions, dozens of theatre productions and several film adaptations. Now, for the first time ever, an adaptation of Babicka has reached the stage of the Czech National Theatre.
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