Genofeve, Don Juan

ALFA THEATRE, (Host theatre production)

Tomáš Dvořák

DON JUAN, GENEVIEVE “Esteemed audience, these escapades are full of supernatural beings, and not for children who are faint of heart!” Both plays are condensed versions (each lasts around 30 minutes) of the “party pieces” of the Czech folk puppeteers who from the end of the 18th century formed a distinctive part of the Czech national revival. The various puppeteer families created (and handed down from generation to generation) their specific textual versions. The staging and linguistic devices used by these nomadic marionettists still enchant us with their sometimes inadvertent magic. The performance is directed by Tomáš Dvořák, renowned and respected both at home and abroad for his return to the roots of Czech puppetry and his ability to work with original material in such a way as to respect tradition while pleasing contemporary audiences. For each piece, Dvořák has created a highly original collection of puppets, in effect collages of all sorts of everyday items. The production thus draws from a provocative contrast between the conventions of traditional puppet theatre and the truly non-traditional “surrealist” puppets. Moreover, it brings a distinctive and entertaining look at two of the archetypal stories of European literature.

Don Juan is an idiosyncratic variation on the 14th century Spanish legend of the womaniser Don Juan, which also makes reference to its later dramatic reworkings. Genevieve will warm the hearts of lovers of sharp, entertaining and yet tragic love stories. It was one of the best-loved and most widespread puppet plays in the whole of Europe. The story of the suffering of Genevieve, countess of Brabant, was first recorded in the 14th century. It spread to the Czech lands, mostly in books of folk tales.

“ The set design, creating the scene of the story out of various “leftover” materials is a simple but inventive element in Genevieve. Over the puppets, as they act, stand their puppeteers and voice actors Martin Bartůšek, Petr Borovský and Tomáš Jereš, and their self-confessed and undisguised artistic participation provokes admiration for their flexibility of movement and voice. Under the podium sits Petr Vydarený with a large number of musical instruments and other aids. He underscores the atmosphere of a cross between love and horror story using guitars, zithers, hurdy gurdies, a triangle, coconut shells and other gadgets.
——JAN KERBR, Lidové noviny

“ Although in our current age the puppet is tending to disappear, Tomáš Dvořák continues to create superb puppet theatre and to care for a legacy that is now protected by UNESCO. He is caring for something that is peculiar to Pilsen and Czech puppetry.

TOMÁŠ DVOŘÁK (1956) Former artistic director of Pilsen’s Alfa Theatre comes from a puppeteer family (his father was at the birth of the DRAK theatre in Hradec Králové) and the history of modern Czech puppet theatre is in part the history of his successful productions, shown not only in Pilsen but in the Naïve Theatre in Liberec. Of those that have graced the DIVADLO festival we should mention The Headless Knight, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Alina, The Handsome Fire Chief and Swan Lake from the Liberec theatre, and from the Alfa Goodness Gracious, It’s the Dogheads, The Three Musketeers, James Blond, Three Strong Men on the Road and Watch Out, Zorro!.

DIVADLO ALFA The Divadlo dětí (Children’s Theatre), the Alfa’s direct predecessor, opened in 1966 in the Alfa’s premises on Americká Street in Pilsen. In 1992 it moved into a modern building on Rokycanská 7 and took on its current name. Its statutory establishing body is the City of Pilsen. The theatre is aimed at a wide public, from nursery-school children to adults. To all it offers an alternative to the dominant media culture. For a number of years the theatre’s incomparable style has been created by director Tomáš Dvořák and artist Ivan Nesveda. The theatre company has been on over a hundred foreign tours, with one of its most successful productions, The Three Musketeers, playing for several weeks in Japan and Saudi Arabia. This year the theatre planned a tour around Asia, the show Zorro!!! was supposed to travel to Japan and South Korea, but the trip had to be cancelled for the second time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Alfa Theatre is also the joint organiser of the Skupa’s Pilsen puppet festival.