APPLAUSE FOR A “BITING COMEDY”
Vít Závodský 18. October 2016 zdroj www.brnozurnal.cz
(…) The dramaturges of Brno City Theatre like to mix thought-provoking plays together with a wide range of comedies in roughly equal proportions, grasping the fact that the primarily recreational function of the theatre for audiences means witty works continue to have a natural place on the repertoire. They often strike it lucky with comedy pieces, as can be seen from their list of still-reprised evergreens like Feydeau’s A Flea in Her Ear (1996) and Brandon Thomas’ Charley’s Aunt (2007). A festive 100th reprise was added to the series on 9th October 2016 at the Drama Theatre, where the Robin Hawdon farce Perfect Wedding was performed in a new, fast-paced translation by Jan Šotkovský. (…) Right from the start, the director set a swift tempo via dependable actor interaction and amusing gags. It’s a tasteful production whose rhythm, gradation and more or less restrained performances are supported by Karel Albrecht’s music. (…) The rather unusual choice of Milan Němec as the groom, Bill, paid off from the beginning. He starts the play in fearful and hysterical confusion at the presence in his bedroom that morning of the pleasantly frank, sweet and simply nice Judy (Hana Holišová), and then gets hopelessly lost in a web of camouflaging lies, garnering thunderous applause for his explosive spoken and physical performance. A good counterpoint, typewise, is his more moderate and manly friend, Tom, who’s also his best man. Peter Štěpán effectively captures Tom’s gradual descent into furious paroxysms of jealous rage. (…)
Vít Závodský, www.brnozurnal.cz, 18. 10. 2016
No fear before the joking gutter press
Vít Závodský 1. September 2010 zdroj KAM
The dramaturgically rich repertoire of the Drama Theatre of Brno City Theatre strives to maintain a balance between demanding and relaxing titles. After Veber’s conversational comedy The Dinner Game, the spring premiere of Perfect Wedding (1994) by Robin Hawdon (born 1939) added to the amount of works offered from the latter group, in Jan Šotkovský´s new dynamic translation. Over the longer term this work can be seen as a free continuation of their line of successful French and Anglo-American incidental comedies such as A Flea in Her Ear and Not Now, Darling!
R. Hawdon is a commercially skilled and versatile British writer (among other things an author of two novels) and a theatre artist who is involved in stage, film and theatrical acting and direction. From his twenty plays, only the world-famous Perfect Wedding, which exists in several authorial versions, has been staged here by several ensembles, including amateur ones. The plot of this two-part chamber work with only a few actors easily fulfils the classic “rule of three unities”, as the time on stage corresponds to real time. It takes place in a cosy apartment in a village hotel during the busy morning before a wedding, and the embarrassing opening situation reminds one e.g. of Feydeau’s more then a hundred-year-old The Girl from Maxim’s: the bridegroom wakes up with hangover amnesia after a night of partying and finds himself in bed with an unfamiliar girl, which is, according to the well-tested principles of the genre, the source of various exchanges, excuses and misunderstandings which result in a paradoxical end, or the opportunity for a new beginning.
The dramaturgist who carried out the translation, together with his colleague Klára Latzková and the director Stanislav Slovák, who is currently just starting out in the musical field (Jánošík, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), have mildly shortened and adapted the skilfully crafted text. The fast-talking, laconic script formed the foundation for a fairly short, dynamic evening filled with craziness that doesn’t, luckily, allow the audience to notice the absence of some kind of deeper level of thought. The stage set, the specifications of which were laid out by the author, and which is acceptably descriptive and unchanging, was produced by Jaroslav Milfajt (the costumes were designed by Andrea Kučerová), with frequently used doors, a hint of a dividing wall and an imaginary mirror facing the auditorium allowing the needed simultaneity of scenes with various groupings of characters in both rooms. The director sets a swift pace from the very beginning via the well-managed coordination of the actors. This non-vulgar, tasteful production with many gag scenes (trousers put on the other way round, a jump “through a wall” and others) manages to keep up the rhythm, gradation and so far, also the non-extemporizing discipline.
Milan Němec as the bridegroom, Bill, acted with almost extreme involvement straight off from his arrival on stage. He starts in a state of frightened and hysterical confusion because of the presence of the likeably honest, kind and pleasant Judy in his bedroom in the morning (Hana Holišová), and then goes on to become entangled in a web of camouflaging lies - much to the great appreciation of the audience. A good type contrast to him is his more moderate and manly friend and best man, Tom, acted by Petr Štěpán, who gradually sinks into choleric fits of jealous anger. As the bride, Rachel, Lenka Janíková expressed her character’s middle class reservedness and bossy authoritativeness. The spectators can also see Lucie Zedníčková, who has recently joined the ensemble, as the erotically seductive chamber maid who gets involved in the intrigues, as well the bride’s naive mother Daphne, dressed in a pink suit and a hat and trying to keep up appearances (acted by Irena Konvalinová). The role of the gradually-going-crazy hotel manager, Dupont, was given to Zdeněk Bureš.
The English “biting comedy” Perfect Wedding has everything it needs to become a title which is deservedly sought after by the spectators and which will return, like its local genre predecessors, for many reprises.
A perfect wedding
Pavel Růžička 1. May 2010 zdroj Kult
If you haven’t been getting enough laughter in your life recently you should definitely go and see Perfect Wedding at Brno City Theatre. It’s that type of comedy where a great subject and well thought-out dialogues play second fiddle to the acting performances. The first few minutes are a little shaky, where primarily in the case of Hana Holišová one can’t escape the feeling that the acting is a little forced, but then the situation comedy begins and more actors come on board to get everything going. It gives you a still greater appreciation for the sensitively played character of the chambermaid, Julie. Lucie Zedníčková, a new member of the ensemble who plays a character far younger than her, really is a great catch for Brno.
Milan Němec – Bill, with his trousers on back-to-front – melancholically hops across the boards of the City Theatre, and if at that moment the transport police turned up instead of his future (theatre) wife Rachel (Lenka Janíková), he would fail their breath test very nicely. The best man, Bill’s best friend Tom (Petr Štěpán), isn’t much better off. However, unlike the groom Tom spent the night in his hotel room alone, and that’s what the play is all about. Bill’s farewell to freedom didn’t quite go as planned. Actually, it was a complete disaster. When Bill wakes up in the morning next to a woman he’s never seen before and his bride-to-be is already knocking on the door of their newlywed’s apartment, the trouble begins. Where can Julie be quickly hidden when there’s also a Judy in the hotel? You’ll just have to find out for yourself!
There’s Jaroslav Milfajt’s simple set, whose basic functionality is overcome with bravura by Milan Něměc and his spontaneous boyish jokes, there’s the absolutely immaculate timing of the gags, there’s the sure harmony in the acting of the male duo (Němec, Štěpán) - and all this is filled out by the excellent performances of the other actors which really make Perfect Wedding something enjoyable to watch.
When a wedding is perfect, it is a problem
Jiří P. Kříž 1. April 2010 zdroj Právo – Jižní Morava
This biting comedy by Robin Hawdon is a treat for the spectators at Brno City Theatre
At a certain age you probably couldn’t find a single person who wouldn’t want to experience a perfect wedding. Only Robin Hawdon was cheeky enough to destroy relationships which were glued together and maintained in various ways and then still manage to build new, perhaps even more promising ones, during one night before a wedding.
Hawdon’s best comic work from his extensive list of comedies is the only one performed in our country to date. After Pardubice, where it was introduced by Zdeněk Dušek with Milan Němec in the role of the best man, Tom, five years ago, it was translated again for Brno City Theatre by Jan Šotkovský and brought to the stage by go-getting director Stanislav Slovák.
With a strange woman in a strange room
The translation is certainly more contemporary than Fahner’s one at the gingerbread makers’. Words can be heard which appeared on the stage with a blush on their face a few years ago.
And Milan Němec, who has managed to move from the Elbe to the Svratka in the meantime, excels this time in the role of the bridegroom, Bill.
This review note could, in fact, be a study of his acting development. He has turned Perfect Wedding from a conversational play into an ingeniously crazy one. Gags follow one after another from the time when Bill wakes up from his hangover in a bedroom which was meant for the pleasures of the wedding night. However, with a different girl. Milan Němec has matured acting-wise into a Pardus-type master. And I don’t pay such compliments to just anyone.
The peripeteia of only a few hours before the wedding ceremony lead to an unexpected result nearly in real time in this two-hour-long play full of events that might bring about a heart attack. The story takes place in the living room and bedroom of a hotel apartment on the stage (Jaroslav Milfajt), in provocative costumes by Andrea Kučerová, and with music by Karel Albrecht which is as crazy as the story.
The counterweight to the bridegroom is the more settled-down but similarly unbalanced best man, Tom, acted by Petr Štěpán in Brno. Let’s name the bride, Rachel, the girl, Judy, the chambermaid, Julia, and the mother of the bride, Daphne. Lenka Janíková, Hana Holišová, Lucie Zedníčková and Irena Konvalinová add their well looked-after bodies to their acting. The roles then fit them very nicely.
Zedníčková is a good acquisition for Brno City Theatre, as far as type is concerned. She is outstanding as the chambermaid, Julia.
This perfect wedding is a real rib-tickler
Luboš Mareček 31. March 2010 zdroj MF Dnes
This British comedy, featuring biting dialogues and also bites at the audience, has really come off for Brno City Theatre
Brno City Theatre has been showing the biting comedy Perfect Wedding since the weekend. It must be admitted that Robin Hawdon’s text is a really brilliantly written slice of fun which bites at the actors from phrase to phrase, and in fact also at the spectators themselves with the same intensity.
This commercial comedy, which has travelled all around Europe since 1994 and which is being put on in this country for the fifth time, is based on a simple joke. A husband-to-be wakes up, on the day of his wedding, in bed with a different girl. At that moment, his friend, wife-to-be, the chambermaid and other people are trying to get into his room…
It’s just like when you hit the balls on a billiards table and keep hitting those which still haven’t collided with one another. Hawdon’s story is based on a similar principle. Misunderstandings are multiplied again and again by mistakes with the girls’ names. The experienced British playwright can handle the language as well as the situations and he plays with them lavishly.
Throwing handfuls of comedy
It is clear that a similarly oiled machine for fun requires acting perfection in the sense of a quick tongue and untiring perception. In this respect, Stano Slovák´s production is a solid, pulsing show.
Milan Němec is king of the evening as the bridegroom tried by circumstances as well as by his own heart in a lyrical happy ending. Němec is a real nitwit, caught in his own traps, and as a source of comedy he never lets up. An ideally-chosen foil for him is the more robust, both physically and acting-wise, Petr Štěpán as the best man, Tom.
Both of them are well seconded by women who embody femininity in many forms – a bossy newly-wed (Lenka Janíková), one who is unhappily in love (Hana Holišová) and an easily manipulated one (Lucie Zedníčková).
Decently performed fun is an unbelievably hard and serious art. It was carried off quite successfully here. The spectators were presented with a well-balanced farce, as far as jokes, performances and rhythm are concerned. Luckily, it isn’t full of dirty jokes – except for one toilet brush. The actors do not change the comicity into cheap stupidity. The crazy turmoil takes place in stage whose kitschy theatrical realism is set by the author. The two connected rooms are the work of Jaroslav Milfajt.
To sum everything up, it is sharp English humour spiced up by Czech acting verve. This wedding won’t be a successful one and your heart won’t ache from it - but your ribs will be tickled.
Perfect Wedding – a perfect comedy
Peter Stoličný 31. March 2010 zdroj divadlo.sk
Robin Hawdon: Perfect Wedding. Translation: Jan Šotkovský. Dramaturgy: Klára Latzková, Jan Šotkovský. Direction and adaptation: Stano Slovák. Scene: Jaroslav Milfajt. Costumes: Andrea Kučerová. Music: Karel Albrecht. Premiere: 27. 3. 2010 at Brno City Theatre.
At the end of March, the play Perfect Wedding by English playwright Robin Hawdon had its premiere at Brno City Theatre. Surprisingly, this author isn’t very well known in the Czech theatrical world even though his plays have been shown not only in tens of British theatres over the past few decades, but also in thirty countries around the world. Therefore, Jan Šotkovský (who is both the translator and one of the dramaturgists for the play) deserves praise for deciding to introduce Czech audiences to the author and his comedy. It is certainly at least as good and tempting as, for example, the Straw Hat by Eugéne Labiche.
These two plays have a lot in common. The bridegroom, the bride and all those who cross their path make everything which could go smoothly so complicated that everybody hits one another, lies to one another, makes excuses and gets entangled in their own lies until the situation gets so unbearable that everything has to “explode”. And when it happens, everything has a happy end, everybody finds their own love and everybody is happy.
The roots of this type of theatre play extend back perhaps as far as the slapstick plays of antiquity period, but its typology stabilized in the Italian dell’arte comedy which nomadic artists took all around Europe in the Renaissance period. Perhaps the most suitable genre description is “farce”, even though a farce often means something condemnable. And yes, Perfect Wedding IS a farce, in the best sense of word. It is a conversational comedy where everyone has their irreplaceable position. The characters don’t develop - they are only dragged from one embarrassing situation to another powerlessly with the spectators laughing at the helplessness of the protagonists as they get hopelessly entangled in their own lies.
The author of the comedy, Robin Hawdon, has admitted in an interview that he considered every word carefully in order to make the story flow as fast as possible. It needs to be said that the translator also followed this pattern and used all the finesses of the Czech language to make it flow fast yet maintain the witty dialogues, even though they are always interpreted as seriously as possible (ant the more serious the protagonists are, the funnier they become). Somehow, these scenes (like the first bedroom scene when the main hero wakes up with a strange woman in a strange bed) remind me of Georges Feydeau’s comedies, particularly The Girl from Maxim’s. Already the situation itself, when a man wakes up naked next to a beautiful naked woman and there is a big open space in the past, is immensely funny - I’m using Mr Werich’s words - he claimed that fun isn’t a swearword but a technical term. And it is fun, indeed, from the beginning right to the end. Director Stano Slovák, who with this attempted the direction of a fast comedy for the first time, certainly deserves great credit for this. He managed it excellently - hats off. All the gags are timed correctly, the situations are easy to understand despite the great pace which he set, there are no unnecessary or excessive gestures or steps, each detail is worked out beautifully. The whole creative team certainly helped him with it. As always, Jaroslav Milfajt designed a very functional stage and Andrea Kučerová did the costumes. Karel Albrecht composed the great musical elements and Klára Latzková, whose work can be seen more and more at Brno City Theatre, took part in the dramaturgy. But the main “hats off” are for the actors.
Milan Němec caught my interest for the first time as Celestén in Mam´zelle Nitouche. He came to Brno City Theatre in 2007 from Pardubice already as a mature actor. However, he hadn’t fully “unveiled” his skills as a comedian until the Perfect Wedding. His acting is very expressive but he managed to restrain his gestures and the conflict in his soul at the right comedy level. As the bridegroom, Bill, he was truly unhappy, and the spectators were pleased that they weren’t in his awkward situation.
Bill’s partner was his friend and best man, Tom, who was acted by Petr Štěpán in a similarly energetic way and with a similar sense of comedy. I’ve seen him more often in musical-dramatic productions, for example in the characters of Nikola Šuhaj in Koločava and Javert in Les Misérables. In fact, however, he did act Viktor Champsoboisy in the comedy A Flea in Her Ear, which was also a good comedy performance. He also obtained the prestigious Thalia Award for 2007 for the character of Horn in the musical The Witches of Eastwick.
The character of the bride, Rachel, is a bit unrewarding. Lenka Janíková played her well despite the fact that it is difficult to get into the character of a bride who has no idea what is going on around her. She is the only serious figure both in her character and in the way it is acted, and it is unrewarding in the sense that all the crazy and comical situations bounce off this seriousness.
On the other hand, the characters of the lover and the chambermaid are written in an excellent and inspiring way and the actors have made use of this fact, of course. Judy, played by Hana Holišová, is not only a pretty and fragile young woman. It was the first time that I have seen Hana Holišová in a comedy role and she really surprised me. I have always considered her to be a musical actress, since her first appearance at Brno National Theatre where she acted in Finian’s Rainbow, and then mainly in one of Brno City Theatre’s successful productions – The Witches of Eastwick. In Perfect Wedding, she was an excellent partner to both friends (the bridegroom and his best man) who were getting entangled in trouble and whose situation was made more complex by fragile Judy due to their lies and fabrications.
Julia, a hotel chambermaid, is an honest person who is good-willed in trying to save the wedding and to correct what cannot be corrected anymore, thus making the series of lies and embarrassing situations even more complicated. She was acted by Lucie Zedníčková, a new reinforcement at Brno City Theatre. After graduating from the acting specialization at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, she remained in that city. She started at the Realistic Theatre, then acted at the Drama Club and finally, was engaged at the Háta theatre association. She has also appeared on television (for example in Dobrodružství kriminalistiky), but I have always had the feeling that she was still waiting for the right acting opportunities. And she has found them. Her chambermaid is energetic, honest and funny at the same time. It is a delicacy for the spectators. I think that the engagement of Lucie Zedníčková at Brno City theatre was a “bargain” for both sides.
Perfect Wedding is a beautiful comedy full of fun. It is always good to have a laugh at problems which don’t concern us. And it is excellent to be entertained when we are sure that everything will come to a good end.