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Only a few years after independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, theatre within the Independent Republic of Czechoslovakia had already transformed itself into a leader of Europe’s mainstream; both Langer and Capek were at the forefront of this revolution.


Mon 3/11 - Periphery by František Langer (1925)

Tue 4/11 - The Mother by Karel Čapek (1938)

The classic expressionist play, Periphery, takes place in the lower depths of Prague where a recently released prisoner tries to start his life over as a dancer. Periphery is the Czech Crime and Punishment – a love story minus the happy endings. The Mother, Čapek’s final play, was one of the very last in this sustained period of radical international success for Czech theatre. Redolent of the Spanish Civil War and the imminent threat of Hitler, The Mother is widely considered to be Čapek’s masterpiece; a powerful call to arms. The Munich Agreement of 1938 became the first step towards Nazi occupation and a dark period of censorship and control that loomed for the next 20 years.

Wed 5/11 - Cat on the Rails by Josef Topol (1965)

Thu 6/11 - We’ll Start it (up) Tomorrow!
                                        by Václav Havel (1988)


It was not until the 1960s that Czech theatre again began to experience a period of relative political freedom, escalating towards the liberal reforms of the Prague Spring in 1968. Most noteworthy amongst this period are Vaclav Havel and Josef Topol. Topol’s examination of social evils on human intimacy, Cat On the Rails, shows two lovers waiting for a train that never comes, mirroring the stagnation in Czechoslovakia. Authors still not allowed to publish or be performed were forced underground or into exile but by the mid 1980’s some textsbegan to find their wayto the general consciousness. The impact of this in bringing about the Velvet Revolution of 1989 is best characterised by the urgent call to revolt that is Havel’s Tomorrow! first performed as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations in 1988.

Fri 7/11 - Sorrow, Sorrow, Fear, the Rope & the Pit
by Karel Steigerwald (1990)

Sat 8/11 - Theremin
by Petr Zelenka (2006)

In the lead up to the Velvet Revolution of 1989, many authors began toshow instead an interest in general, timeless themes, without links to immediately topical impulses or historical experiences. Sorrow, Sorrow, Fear was one of the first plays to react to the collapse of Communist totalitarianism. Its heroesare people fleeing from the regime that ruled in countries beyond the "Iron Curtain" for most of the last century. Petr Zelenka is a leading maker of contemporary Czech theatre and film. He made his debut as a playwright and theatre director with Tales of Common Insanity in 2001, winning the prestigious Alfred Radok Award for Play of the Year. Subverting the 1960’s trend of plays about the importance of individual experience, Zelenka’s Theremin is a portrait of the famed musician and inventor of the instrument from which the play gets its title, Leon Sergeievich. A controversial and peculiar man, he is caught in the torrents of 20th century history, unable to be free in his calling, his actions, or his wants.






A CAUTIOUS PATH:

The last century of Czech history

Tristan Bates Theatre
3rd - 8th November 2008



In a departure from our usual line-up of cutting edge new writing, and to commemorate 90 years of the Independent Republic of Czechoslovakia on 28th October, OTC's latest Writers' Block presents a fantastic opportunity to experience six classic and contemporary plays exploring theatre’s engagement with momentous events from the last century, significant for their part in the formation of the vibrant and indomitable Czech identity.

All readings start at 7.30pm
All tickets £3.00
Box Office: 020 7240 6283
(2pm - 6pm no booking fee)

Email: [email protected]

Collect in person:
Tristan Bates Theatre
The Actors Centre
1a Tower Street
London, WC2H 9NP

Nearest tube: Leicester Square

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