Premieres

Season 2020/2021

 

Josef Topol

Wandering of Souls

Direction: Štěpán Pácl

Premiere: 18th September 2020 at the Mahen Theatre Studio stage

Meditation for an Actress and a Violin

All I'm waiting for is one more letter, and then I'll know when I'm off. I'll tick it on the calendar and wait for the big day to come. I'll make my bed and hang up the chandelier in a new place. After years I'll finally rise and shine again. In the morning I'll lean out of the window and say: ''Hello...!''

A small and gloomy basement apartment, stale air, a cobweb paradise. Everything seems temporary. And a little bleak. In this special place and time, the story of the ageing Magdalena comes to life. Her sense of existence revolves around the letters from her lover Robert, and the hope that one day she can move to America to start a new life with him. Her daydreaming is repeatedly interrupted by her disabled neighbour banging on the wall, asking her to come around. Yet Magdalena has already packed her suitcase! Now, she mustn’t miss the postman's knock on the door.

Josef Topol's lyrical text takes us to a situation where language becomes a reflection of the soul and allows us to look at a seemingly ordinary woman's life story, in which there is limitless room for dreams and old memories. A text that is gently woven together for the first lady of the Brno drama ensemble, Marie Durnová.

 

Milan Kundera 

The Owners of The Keys

Direction: Martin Glaser

Premiere: 23rd October 2020 at the Mahen Theatre

A Comedy of Fatefulness and a Tragedy of Pettiness

The world-famous writer Milan Kundera (born in 1929 in Brno) thoroughly develops “the unacknowledged heritage of Cervantes” and the tradition of Central-European novel, exploring this peculiar 'art' as a brilliant essayist who puts emphasis on the Rabelaisian, satirical view of the world. He also wrote three dramas, two of which (Jacques and His Master, a tribute to Denis Diderot, and The Blunder) were staged in post-1989 Czechia. Only now, more than half a century later, are we finally going to have all Kundera's drama work adapted for stage. It is a big moment for Czech drama. The Owners of the Keys (1962), distinguished by the precision of composition which we know from Kundera's novels, is being produced by the same drama section of the National Theatre which also produced František Hrubín's A Sunday in August and Josef Topol's Their Day. The story of Jiří Nečas – who, during World War II, hides a fleeing girl in his father-in-law's apartment, keeping the keys in the pocket of his trousers – brings to the scene noble gestures and low motives. It portrays our world beyond whose windows the Nazis go on marching.

 

Ödön von Horváth

Nobody

Translation: Radovan Charvát

Direction: Aminata Keita

Czech premiere: 20th November 2020 at the Reduta Theatre

As Ridiculous as a Slip on a Lemon Rind

Theatre dramaturges usually tend to expect new plays by Martin McDonagh, Tracy Letts, Roland Schimmelpfennig, Marius von Mayenburga… But certainly none of them expected to see the appearance of a new play by Ödön von Horváth – a consummate Central-European author who died in an accident more than 80 years ago! Yet this is exactly what happened. In 2015, a manuscript of Horváth's early play from 1924 was discovered in Vienna. Despite the fact (or perhaps exactly because of it?) that it concerns one of the author's early works, it contains all his later obsessive themes in the bud. We observe a whirlwind of unique yet interchangeable figures who remind us all the time of someone we might know. The stage is set in an apartment building which could be seen as a metaphor for the world, "ruled" by the lame landlord and money lender from the attic. The story line gets complicated, and a disturbing chorus clamours throughout the play: "Who's to blame? Nobody!"

The play, which we are eager to rank among the "hot news" of the moment, will be rehearsed by our cast directed by Aminata Keita. Given her debut in professional theatre, she surely promises good understanding of Horváth's earliest stage drama. This presentation will be the first in the Czech Republic; the world premiere, directed by Dušan D. Pařízek, already took place in the Vienna Theater in der Josefstadt in 2016.

 

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov

The Seagull

Translation: Jaroslav Vostrý

Direction: Štěpán Pácl

Premiere: 18th December 2020 at the Mahen Theatre

"In my opinion, contemporary theatre is mere routine and prejudice." (Treplev) 

At a country house owned by famous actress Arkadina, her son Treplev is working on one of his own plays to be performed by Nina Zarechnaya. Their creative energy is supposed to merge into one single artistic image. However, the performance turns into a fiasco and the young Treplev loses all chances to win Nina's love and appreciation as well as his mother's respect. This is how the play sets out. Chekhov creates, through the entanglement of love and family relationships, a picture of human suffering on the threshold of the twentieth century – instead of famous deeds and romantic heroes, here we see just the pain of modern man. By means of poetic language and inexorable humour, the author depicts characters and situations that are alive and surprisingly contemporary.

It is the first of the great plays by the Russian playwright and writer, which, staged in 1896, founded one of the directions of modern theatre. On Czech stages, Chekhov's plays have always been shown at crucial moments of Czech drama. First introduced by Jaroslav Kvapil, the founder of the Czech modern theatre direction, they later constituted the main dramaturgical pillar of Divadlo Za Branou, and became particularly prominent at the end of the top period of Činoherní Klub. In the 1990's, Chekhov represented a challenge to postmodern directors, in the first place Petr Lébl. The Mahen Theatre will now continue this tradition under the direction of  Štěpán Pácl, who acted in Lébl's performances, was a student under Otomar Krejča, and is a disciple of Jaroslav Vostrý (dramaturge of Činoherní Klub). It is Vostrý's new translation of The Seagull that is currently being staged in Brno.

 

Johann Nepomuk Nestroy

Railway Marriages, or Vienna, Neustadt, Brno

Translation: Václav Cejpek

Direction: Martin Čičvák

Premiere: 22nd January 2021 at the Reduta Theatre 

You Can't Stop Courting or Progress

Musical instrument makers, cousins Ignaz Stimmstock from Vienna and Peter Stimmstock from Krems, both want to get married. Ignaz fancies Therea Kipfl from Wiener Neustadt, Peter intends to lead to the altar Babett Zopak, from Brno. To achieve this, they invite the experienced matchmaker Zaschelhuber to help them realise their dreams. However, if the courting takes place on Emperor Ferdinand's North-South Railways, mishaps may occur in the grand scheme of things. Inexperienced passengers easily mistake one train for another and suddenly find themselves heading in the opposite direction! Such unfortunate people have all the reason in the world to get upset, especially when another lovesick man crosses their path. In the story, the enamoured painter Patzmann kidnaps Nanny (the foster-daughter in the Zopak family), thus greatly complicating his life. And not only his!

In Nestroy's comedy, the main characters are entangled in a complex network of love affairs but the main source of humour in this biting farce from 1843 is a modern phenomenon which revolutionised travelling: the invention of steam locomotive.

 

Lucy Kirkwood

The Welkin'

Translation: Pavel Dominik

Direction: Michal Lang

Czech premiere: 26th February 2021 at the Mahen Theatre

Twelve Angry Women

Rural England in the middle of the eighteenth century: the gallows are being erected in a little town to hang a female murderer of a small girl. Yet the murderer claims to be pregnant which would thwart her hanging. That is why the tribunal summons twelve women, all mothers, to determine whether the now-convicted Sally is expecting a child. All the thirteen women and a warden are confined in a cell of the municipal fortress.  We are witnessing that the task is much harder than it seemed, and that many of the jurors are not as impartial as they look. Along with the midwife Elisabeth, who delivered all the children of the jury, we wonder about the harshness of these 'matrons'. Beaten by life and often by their husbands too, they end up resorting to brutality, either out of grudge or jealousy, or out of revenge for a bygone injustice. The brand new drama from the British playwright Lucy Kirkwood (born in 1983), was presented by the London National Theatre in January 2020.  The Brno Mahen Theatre will stage The Welkin' (Heavens) under the direction of Michal Lang, director of the Prague Divadlo pod Palmovkou, which was named 'Theatre of the Year' in 2019.

 

Robert Icke, Arthur Schnitzler:

"LaDy Doctor"

Translation: Pavel Dominik

Direction: Ivan Krejčí

Czech premiere: 23th March 2021  at the Reduta Theatre

"There is always hope. It's not over until the body is cold!" – Ruth Wolff

Ruth Wolff is the chief physician at an institute for neurological patients. She admits a 14-year-old girl who hasn’t much time to live, trying to give her the most peaceful departure. The next morning, after a tumultuous night, an unexpected visitor shows up at the door of the young patient: the priest from the parish to which the girl's parents belong. He has come to give her the last sacrament. By refusing an unknown and uninvited priest permission to enter the patient's room, the physician creates a chaotic situation, resulting in what could be termed a witch hunt. But why didn’t anyone listen to the priest? And was the girl Catholic or not? Was the priest treated in an unjust, aggressive way? And did the doctor do this, perhaps, because she herself is Jewish?

This variation on Schnitzler's key drama Professor Bernhardi, by the British playwright and screenwriter Robert Icke, returns to the fundamental themes of the early twentieth century themes which are unfortunately still (or perhaps again?) frighteningly topical. It shows that even those who have dedicated their lives to the healing of others might be affected by racial and religious prejudice spread in the public domain without proper justification. And however absurd it is to base one's decisions about a dying patient on confused public opinion, these things do happen.

 

Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Translation Luba a Rudolf Pellarovi

Direction: Štěpán Pácl

Premiere: 23rd April 2021 at the Mahen Theatre

A Hearty Invitation From Martha and George to a Night of Fun and Games!

Who would be able to resist an invitation for a drink at Martha's and George's house? Even though 2 a.m. would normally be too late for a visit, a young couple who have just moved to the university town, yields to the temptation to make precious social contacts. And they are quite extraordinary:  Martha, the daughter of the local university's founder, and history professor George both belong to the local elite. Yet after more than twenty years of marriage their relationship – outwardly happy and thriving – has many cracks.  Having drunk too much, the two couples lose all restraints. The next morning, all that remains from the party is an awful hangover.

Although Edward Albee's (1928–2016) famous drama from 1962 probes into the life of two couples, the message we get does not concern only family affairs and sexual relations between men and women; it is also a testimony of a pseudointellectual society. A society that generates senseless conventions while diverting itself with cruel games, encloses itself in impermeable barriers while suffering from loneliness, and dreams of unattainable ideals while tormenting itself with self-disenchantment.

 

Václav Štech

A Fiery Land

Adaptation: Tomáš Vůjtek

Direction: Ivan Krejčí

Premiere: 30th May 2021 at the Reduta Theatre

Politicking à la Czech

Insurance company inspector Pazdera confides a brilliant plan to his family: colonising Bosnia!  All Europe would benefit from this new 'goldmine'. While awaiting the response to his proposal from the Habsburg government in Vienna, Pazdera intends to stand as member of parliament on behalf of a constituency ablaze with tensions, called a Fiery Land. He hopes that the current head of the district, his distant relative Nešpor, could help him get the seat and discuss his colonisation plan with the minister. Now he must persuade Nešpor of his patriotism. But he encounters unexpected setbacks, such as the arrival of a presumed spy from Vienna or the flourishing activities of the Velocipede Club which exasperate certain patriots. 

The comedy – written in 1895 by Václav Štech (1859–1947), one of the first directors of the National Theatre in Brno – takes a swipe at today's Czech politics and society. It is even more true because the play was considerably adapted by the dramatist Tomáš Vůjtek, multiple winner of the Theatre Critics' Award and the 'Play of the Year' title.

 

Tom Stoppard

Leopoldstadt

Translation: Pavel Dominik

Direction: Radovan Lipus

Czech premiere: 18th June 2021 at the Mahen Theatre

Memories of a 20th Century Central-European Family

Vienna towards the end of 1899: Everybody is awaiting the new century with a lot of marvellous expectations. Gustav Mahler is on his way for Paris to perform his Symphony No. 2 at the World Exhibition, Sigmund Freud's thoughts are spreading out, and painters Oskar Kokoschka and Gustav Klimt bask in the glory. Vienna is the cultural navel of the world.  A well-off Jewish family named Merz is celebrating Christmas, anticipating a brighter future – antisemitism is on a decline, anti-Jewish laws are being lifted, and the idea of settling in Palestine to obtain a homeland feels an impressive prospect.  The world seems to be in order. However, in the first half of the twentieth century, the Merz family's destiny did not shape up the way they had imagined it just a few decades earlier.

The most recent play of the British playwright of Jewish origin Tom Stoppard (born in Czechoslovakia in 1937) depicts the life story of a Central-European family from the year 1899 until 1955 – it is a story of Jews, of Vienna, of Europe, and above all a story of solid family ties, so solid that they could survive everything but the Holocaust. The drama is partly drawn from Stoppard's own life; at the very end of the Second War he evaded the Nazi terror by fleeing from his Moravian hometown Zlín to Great Britain. The Mahen Theatre will premiere the play in a translation by its chief translator Pavel Dominik and under the direction of Radovan Lipus.

 

Season 2019/2020

 

Carlo Goldoni

Mirandolina

Direction: Peter Gábor

Premiere: 4th October 2019 at the Reduta Theatre

The Taming of the Grouch.

The peculiar owner of an inn in Florence, as we know her from Carlo Goldoni's comedy, is a very competent woman who is more versed in business than anybody else.  Both the pub and the rooms are always full and many clients long to win her affection. Some of them let it show rather ostentatiously, such as the impoverished yet boastful Marquis Di Forlipopoli and the upstart, self-centred Earl d'Albafiorit. Even though serving such importunate admirers might seem amusing, the lively innkeeper finds their obtuseness gruelling. Being a jovial person, she sits up and takes notice when baron Di Ripafratta – a sworn adversary of women – walks into her pub. Mirandolina is closely bound to the starring actress Tereza Groszmannová, whose translation of the play is custom-made both for herself and her fellow actors. The characters express themselves with a well-timed vigour, allowing dynamic acting. The highly pertinent and jaunty language of the script plays skilfully with ambiguities.

 

Doug Wright

Quills

Czech Premiere: 11th October 2019 at the Mahen Theatre

Can Free Thinking Be Silenced?

Marquis de Sade – a perverted deviant for some and one of the greatest thinkers of his time for others – involuntarily spends the close of his life in the Chareton Asylum. But even there he refuses to give up his obsessive writing, sneaking his texts out of the madhouse with the help of the lusty seamstress Madeleine. Pushed by the new director of the hospital, a young Abbé decides to eradicate de Sade's perversity, using harsher and harsher methods. Yet can certain ideas that strike us ever be obliterated for good?  And doesn't de Sade mean it as a provocation?

The rousing drama by the U.S. playwright Doug Wright (born in 1962), which inspired a film of the same name starring Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet, presents us with burning questions of freedom, censorship and human invincibility. Somehow, it reminds us of Kesey in Miloš Forman's film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Owing to the masterly translation by the Czech translator of Nabokov's Lolita, Pavel Dominik, the expressive language of the awardee of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize (for his monodrama I Am My Own Wife) is not encumbered with tawdry vulgarisms. 

Marius von Mayenburg

Mars

Direction: Natália Deáková

Czech premiere: 6th December 2019 at the Reduta Theatre

Colonisation of the Universe or a Travel to Prehistory?

In the midst of a jungle inhabited by monkeys a course is being taught to those daredevils who long to partake in the colonisation of Mars. Four eccentric candidates for the mission – a father with his daughter and two almost identical brothers (one-upping each other in whose 'self' is the worst) – are undertaking both physically and mentally arduous tasks. Yet as the stakes go higher, the point of completing these feats grows murkier. Shall we really carry out such orders? What exactly are we required to do? And what or whom shall we trust, the organisers of this experiment or our own instincts? The participants have to fight not only against one another but also with their own self. Marius von Mayenburg (born in 1972), dramaturge at Berlin's Schaubühne, is already known to Brno's audience who had the occasion to see Fire-Face, Perplex and Martyr. Now we present his newest existential comedy, which he himself put on the stage of the Schauspiel Frankfurt in May 2018, under the direction of Natália Deáková, artistic director of the Pilsen dramatic company.

Alois Jirásek

The Lantern

Direction: Štěpán Pácl

Premiere: 13th December 2019 at the Mahen Theatre

A Magical Play.

When one of the characters in the Jára Cimrman Theatre's The Stand-In, Karel Infeld Prácheňský, finds out about a brand new play to be staged, he obstinately insists that the company instead opt for “one of the old, time-proven” pieces: either The Lantern or Maryša. Indeed, we would hardly find titles more emblematic for the Czech theatre. The two plays represent the highlights of the Czech drama's fundamental lines: fairy tales and rural realism. Every generation gets back to these classics, retelling in its own way the story of either of the so different millers: Libor and Vávra. After more than two decades since the staging by Zbyněk Srba, the time has come for the Mahen Theatre to show again this magical story by Alois Jirásek (1851–1930) considered as a 'Czech myth'. It is a logical start of the new dramatic director of the Mahen Theatre Company, Štěpán Pácl, who has been continuously producing Czech dramas (e.g. Josef Topol's The End of Shrovetide, Josef Kajetán Tyl's Bloody Christening and František Hrubín's The Cristal Night).

 

Tracy Letts

The Minutes

Direction: Martin Glaser

Czech premiere: 14th February 2020 at the Reduta Theatre

Do We Know the Past of Our Community?

A meeting of the city council of the Middle American small town Big Cherry has on its agenda new parking lots as well as festivities annually commemorating the victory of Sergeant Pym over savage Indian tribes. The newly appointed, resolved councillor Peel could not take part in the last meeting for personal reasons. Mr. Carp, who lost his seat for unclear reasons last time, is missing at the ongoing meeting. Mr. Peel would like to have a glimpse on the minutes from the previous council meeting. However, the local representatives refuse. Can't we no longer trust each other? Step by step 'peeling away' what had actually occurred during the last meeting, Mr. Peel gradually uncovers the town's whole and deeply unflattering history... Although this bitter comedy is based on American 'life and institutions', its portrayal of communal politics reminds of the Czech way of 'drawing lots' in public tenders. The latest comedy by the U.S. playwright Tracy Letts (born in 1965), whose Killer Joe and August: Osage Country have become perennial stars on Czech stages, received its world premiere at the Chicago Steppenwolf Theatre in November 2017.

Karel Steigerwald

Old Dances

Direction: Ivan Krejčí

Premiere: 28th February 2020 at the Mahen Theatre

What Values Do We Stand Up For?

A superintendent from Vienna is coming to town! This piece of news provokes a fuss resembling the beginning of Gogol’s comedy The Government Inspector. However, the characters of our slapstick are startled by the arrival of an official charged to inquire into the recent riots related to the 1848 revolution. Determined not to yield to Vienna the Czechs are defending their victorious flag which they hide in a cellar. “Good people approach their goal at a steady pace whereas others, unknowing, simply dance old dances around them.” It’s by this quotation from Franz Kafka that Karel Steigerwald (born in 1945) introduces his almost banned bitter comedy which he wrote in early 1980’s for the Ústí-nad-Labem company Činoherní Studio and its then director Ivan Rajmont. Looking back, the play is not a mere allegory on the ‘normalisation period’ (whose climate, regrettably, seems to be making a comeback), but also a timeless testimony about Czech people themselves. It can actually be regarded as an ironical ‘complementary counterpart’ to Jirásek’s drama The Lantern. We will not give up our linden tree! But what do we really know about it? What does it mean to us? The Czech mentality will be put on the stage in Viennese scenery under the direction of Rajmont’s disciple Ivan Krejčí.

 

Ferenc Molnár

Liliom

Direction: Štěpán Pácl

Premiere: 30th April 2020 at the Mahen Theatre

Life Is a Carousel.

Andreas Zavoczki nicknamed ‘Liliom’ is a merry-go-round operator. It is hard to say which of the two is more appealing – the carousel or the handsome carny.  Don’t ladies line up just for the chance to turn his head? The day Liliom finally meets the love of his life he loses his job. Taking it very hard the popular dandy gets involved in a robbery... One the most charming plays of the early 1920’s, Liliom was a precursor of Ödön von Horváth’s Casimir and Caroline which it links to František Langer’s Periphery, imparting both with the fanciful motif of travelling to the heavens (and back!). Since those two plays were also directed by Štěpán Pácl, the staging of Liliom can be viewed as a symbolic crowning of a trilogy about the destiny of a ‘little’ man. The play by the classic of Hungarian literature Ferenc Molnár (1878–1952), which became popular thanks to Rodgers’ and Hammerstein’s musical Carousel, is now returning to Czech stages after forty years.

 

Eugène Labiche

The Italian Straw Hat

Direction: Martin Čičvák

Premiere: 19th June 2020 at the Mahen Theatre

Hang on to Your Hat!

A little moment of inattention and the horse of the young Fadinard chew up a straw hat hung on a nearby branch. Unfortunately, the hat belonged to a married lady whose companion in the meadow under the tree was certainly not her husband. She became hysterical and her hot-tempered lover requested immediate recompense. They pursue Fadinard to his apartment, refusing to leave. And as if that wasn’t enough, Fadinard is getting married today! His fiancée and all the wedding guests are already in the door. Unless the bridegroom wants to have a hard time explaining the presence of another lady at his place, he ought to get a new straw hat fairly quickly! The brilliant setting of Eugène Labiche’s (1815–1888) slapstick had inspired the Voskovec and Werich duo as well as the humourist Miroslav Horníček and the film director Oldřich Lipský. In our theatre, we have entrusted the staging of Labiche’s play to Martin Čičvák, an outstanding director without whom this fast-tempo farce would be unconceivable.