Treading the Boards

English-language theater and comedy in Prague, autumn/winter 2011
It’s been a busy summer. The tenth Prague Fringe Festival is not long over. Sunny evenings also offered plenty of opportunities to enjoy open-air theater at Vyšehrad. My funny bone has been tickled, sides split and my appetite for English language theater is nicely whetted. Just as well then, that the autumn/winter season looks pretty busy.

We should perhaps take a moment to realise how lucky we are. Although the Czech Republic has a powerful tradition of quality theater, comedy and theater are clearly heavily dependent on language and may sometimes appear to have less to offer non-fluent expats. A crucial question that has been asked previously is whether the English-speaking community is large enough to properly support professional companies: in terms of providing actors, technical support, and crucially “bums on seats”.

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The answer this year must be a resounding “Yes”: Several Prague-based English language theater companies are now celebrating repeat seasons, building on past successes.  Prague has become a regular destination on the well-trodden path of comedy and fringe performers. This year also hails some exciting new initiatives. I spoke to some local groups to get a forecast of what’s coming up over the winter months.

For Luvvies

Blood, Love and Rhetoric uses professional and student actors and crew, both Czech and international.  Upcoming shows include Pinter’s The Caretaker (20-22 October, Divadlo Inspirace, Malostranské náměstí 13). The Caretaker is well-suited to an expat audience in Prague, described by Martina at BLR as a “perfect mix of British dark sensibilities meeting Czech black humour”. Expect a slightly futuristic but highly topical adaptation, drawing on events including the 7/7 London bombings and the recent riots in the English capital.

BLR presents 'Miss Julie' by August Strindberg - September 2011 (photo: M. Madisonova)
BLR presents ‘Miss Julie’ by August Strindberg – September 2011 (photo: M. Madisonova)

Later in the year BLR will also show Jorge Luis Borges: The Enemies (written and adapted by Jim High, showing 12 and 13 November) and Men of Wives (by Adam Hillier-Gamble, on 2 and 3 December) both at Studio Alt@Art Hala 30, Prague 7.

Also read:  Czech culture goes online: 30 tips for concerts, exhibits, films, and more

For some festive cheer, check out Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. Prague Playhouse’s musical adaptation of the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey of self-redemption at the hands of the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, promises to get the Christmas season off to a very jolly start. Director Julek Neuman explained “this will be a traditional rendition of the play, following the original text quite faithfully”. Neumann also promises a “small twist” at the end to keep audiences on their toes. 17-19 and 24-26 November at Literární Kavárna a Knihkupectví (Řetězová 244/10, Prague 1).

Collaborators - John Hodge
Collaborators – John Hodge

It’s not all home-grown entertainment. National Theater Live is a really exciting initiative, allowing productions from the world-class National Theater in London to be beamed live into theaters across the globe, including in Prague. This is an opportunity to see what are expected to be exceptional performances, including Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors (1 March at Kino Aero, Biskupcovo 31, Prague 3) and John Hodge’s Collaborators (1 December at Bio Oko, Františka Křížka 15, Prague 7).

For Aspiring Starlets

For those who’d prefer to be on stage rather than watching it, there are a number of options. Three particular projects will be of interest to budding thespians.

Prague Youth Theater is a new English speaking youth theater group for native and non-native English speakers aged 8 – 17 years old, which launched in September. PYT currently have 22 members and more places will be available from January 2012. Sessions take place in Divadlo Kampa and typically involve a warm up, drama games and rehearsals for up-coming performances in December.

PYT’s first professional workshops will be held on 15 October, including participation from Ben Bradshaw from BBC comedy series The Office. The workshop will be followed by a puppet show at 15:00; Around the World in a Tea Kettle will be performed in English and is open to the public as well as PYT members. Tickets are available from www.divadlokampa.cz or through PYT.

Also read:  Czech culture goes online: 30 tips for concerts, exhibits, films, and more

Later in the year proud parents and others can enjoy PYT’s premiere performances Domby Dom (5 December) and Burn (9 and 10 December).

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Prague Shakespeare Festival ably presents classic, yet cutting-edge English-language performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Their 2011 summer run, including open-air productions of King Lear and As You Like It at Vyšehrad, was incredibly well received in both Prague and Houston and were some of the most talked-about events of the summer.  The company is holding auditions for next summer’s Richard III on 7 October (at Prague Film School Acting Studio, Pštrossova 19, Prague 1). This winter PSF will also continue working on their Midsummer Night’s Dream workshop and offer more Acting Shakespeare workshops.

The Prague Film and Theater Center is a new initiative, drawing together individuals interested in either of the two disciplines. The very lovely Rosie Dwelly told me that this new free space aims to support the needs of all those who work or are interested in the film and theater community in Prague. Focusing on the sharing of ideas, networking and development of skills, PFTC “hope to grow into an integral part of Prague’s cultural life”.  heir official launch, including appearances from the great and the good of the Prague theater scene, is on 24 October at The Globe Café and Bookstore (Pstrossova 6, Prague 1) – and anyone who is interested in the film or theater is welcome. I will see you there!

Best for a Giggle

Crown Comedy is hosting monthly comedy in Music Club & Bar Phenomen (Nádražní 84, Prague 5).  Whilst the venue (more ‘seedy nightclub’ than pub or comedy club) leaves something to be desired, Crown Comedy is one of only a few groups in Prague offering regular English stand-up, so we shouldn’t grumble. Offering different performers fresh from the UK circuit each month, Crown Comedy will bring a little sunshine to the cold winter months.

Also read:  Czech culture goes online: 30 tips for concerts, exhibits, films, and more

As ever, Belushi’s (Odborů 4, Prague 2) (teaming up with BabyBlueBanana) has a packed schedule. Their English-language stand-up comedy shows continue every month and the next show is on 18 October with Ireland’s Kevin Hayes headlining and American comedian Toby Muresianu opening.

And Everything Else:

For a bit of a sing-a-long try Broadway’s cheery musical Hello Dolly! (English subtitles) 21- 23 October, 16-17 November, 8-9 December) at Divadlo Hybernia (Namesti Republiky 4, Prague 1).

Hello Dolly!
Hello Dolly!

For some seriously cool film events, check out this year’s gay and lesbian film festival MeziPatra (Brno 2-8 November, Prague 10-16 November). The guest-speaker line-up includes heavyweight names including director Todd Haynes, responsible for the likes of Velvet Goldmine and Far From Heaven.

There really is stacks going on in Prague over the coming months and it’s impossible to do justice to it all here. As Julek Neumann comments, one of the obstacles to audiences in Prague is the sheer number of small companies, “constantly competing for space and attention”.  He suggests that the pooling of resources and information might be helpful. Perhaps PFTC will help with this. In the meantime, don’t forget to check the English Theater in Prague Facebook Page to stay up to date on local theater.


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