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.
When Vaclav Havel stepped down as president after three terms in office he said he was planning to return to his creative roots. His first play in two decades –called “Leaving” or “Odchazeni” in Czech – draws on his experience in the world of politics and has generated a lot of media attention. Prague’s top theatres jockeyed for the honour of presenting it but finding the right stage for Mr Havel’s new play has not proved easy.
It was the literary headline of the year, when Vaclav Havel’s first play for nearly two decades was published a few weeks ago and we can be every bit as sure that the first performance of the play next year at Prague’s Na Vinohradech Theatre, will be a huge event. When Havel became president after the spectacular fall of the communist regime in 1989, many predicted that he would never write again. The new play “Odchazeni” (Leaving) proves them wrong. Not only has Havel shown that he can still write, but he has also drawn directly from his political
Prague’s National Theatre is one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic. Located by the River Vltava at the end of Narodni trida, the 19th century Neo-Renaissance building, with its distinctive gilded cupola, is also one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. But today it is landmark in need of a facelift. Some work has already begun on the roof, while the main reconstruction work on its facades will get underway in around a year and a half’s time.
Vaclav Havel was back in his original role as playwright on Wednesday, when, at a theatre in Prague, the former Czech president presented the book form of "Odchazeni", or "Leaving". The long awaited and widely discussed play will appear in the bookshops in less than a two week's time. However, Mr Havel's first new play in 18 years will not be premiered until the end of May or the beginning of June.
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