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.
Radovan Lukavský reading from the Czech national legend Libuše. He was a great literature and poetry lover, though he is best known for big theatre roles, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Goethe’s Faust.
Lukavský was born in 1919 in Prague. After graduating from high school at Český Brod, he studied Czech and French literature at Charles University. However, his studies were soon interrupted by the Nazi occupation and he was sent to do forced labour. Upon his return he completed his studies and he also enrolled at Prague’s conservatory where he studied acting.
In 1946, as a fresh graduate, he got his first acting job at the Na Vinohradech theatre. Because of his striking features and expressive voice, he was usually cast in the roles of honest and upstanding men. In 1957 he got offered a job at the National Theatre and ended up working there for over fifty years. His most famous roles included the Sergeant in Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage or Puck in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night Dream.
Most Czechs, however, will probably remember Radovan Lukavský for his numerous roles in films and television series. He is undoubtedly most famous for playing the Czech national revival leader Václav Thám in the 1970s adaptation of F.L. Věk by the great Czech novelist Alois Jirásek.
In 1995 Lukavský received a lifetime achievement award at the Thalia awards, the Czech Republic’s leading theatre prize. He was also awarded a medal for services to the theatre by then president Václav Havel. Apart from acting, he also taught at Prague’s Academy of Performing Arts and wrote several books about his trade. Shortly before his death, Radovan Lukavský returned to the stage where it all began, the Divadlo Na Vinohradech, starring – at the age of 88 – in Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard.
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