Othello the flagship production at this year's Summer Shakespeare Festival

11-05-2006

Every year Prague's Summer Shakespeare Festival draws thousands of visitors to Prague Castle, to view Shakespeare productions on summer evenings under the open sky. Notable productions in the past have included Romeo and Juliet or King Lear - starring the US-based actor Jan Triska.

Three years ago Mr Triska's King Lear was the talk of the town:

"It's perfect."

"I've been enjoying it and I think that he puts a really human side to the character."

"He's a great actor - one of the reasons we came here."

But, this year will see another great play - with new actors. Who will star in the production and which play will it be? Jan Velinger tells us more.

"Chris, this year's main production at the Summer Festival will be nothing less than one of Shakespeare's most famous and darkest of tragedies - Othello. The respected Michal Dlouhy will play the role of the famous Moor, while newcomer Lucie Vondrackova - the niece of legendary Czech singer Helena Vondrackova - will be one of two actresses to play the delicate Desdemona. I had a chance to speak with her during the company's very first press event on Wednesday and she told me how much she was looking forward to the play.

"Right now we are rehearsing so we are in the middle of the process. Every time it's the same that I'm a little bit nervous, but I'm happy! It's the third time that I've had something 'in common' with Shakespeare. It's working great. I think it's a good theatre group, absolutely magic, it's a dream come true!"

RP: As Lucie Vondrackova says this will be a 'first' for her, but others - including regular visitors to the summer festival probably already have a good idea of what to expect.

"That's quite true: the summer festival usually sells out and there's no doubt that since 1999, when it began, it has gained a generous and dedicated following. In short, it has become something of a tradition. The atmosphere during the evening performances - when the weather proves nice - can be outstanding. Imagine: you get to see an historic play in one the courtyard of a thousand-year castle. What more could you want? The dialogues in Czech are translated by Martin Hilsky, the direction is by Petr Kracik. One of the festival's main organisers and promoters Vaclav Beranek told me a little more about this year's show:

"The director is trying to find a good balance between finding both new elements in the play and using the limits of the area where the play will be performed to his advantage. The stage is basically static when you consider that the backdrop is a wall from 1100! So, the costumes and design conform to that. On the other hand, the director is placing emphasis on the actors: a fairly young Othello, (in his mid-thirties), a tender Desdemona, contrasted by the experienced Oldrich Navratil as Iago. The director is working with all of them to find new angles on the play."

RP: When does the play premiere?

"The premiere of Othello is on June 21st, but if you're interested in seeing it you'll do well to find out about tickets well in advance. You can look up all the information at www.shakespeare.cz But, don't forget the play is in Czech, so unless you have at least a partial understanding of the language, it might not be worth your while.

11-05-2006