The Brave Blacksmith - the first premiere after an unwanted break in Brno
Peter Stoličný 19. June 2020 zdroj www.eurozpravy.cz
…So how did the new take on an old fairy-tale work out? There is no need to leave you in suspense - it was simply “great”, as a roughly twelve-year-old girl sitting in the auditorium near me said. Finally, she added: “Mum, it was awesome!”
Jaroslav Milfajt´s stage arrangement contributed a great deal to the fairy tale atmosphere – it was made of some sort of old riveted iron scenery with a functional turntable in the middle – as did (of course) the inventive costumes by Roman Šolc. And we must not forget the Brno City Theatre orchestra, which could be heard playing live from a location placed above the stage under the arcades. It was conducted very sensitively by Petr Gablas. Martin Pacek´s choreography had all the protagonists moving around the stage naturally, particularly the main hero. Aleš Slanina was in the role of the blacksmith, Mikeš. (Oh, how nicely and optimistically he managed to dance!) But Mikeš is a good and trusting man, and so he took whomever he met on his trip out into the world, namely Matěj (Jakub Uličník) and Ondra (Kristian Pekar). These two lazy fellows leave Mikeš in trouble while he’s rescuing the princesses and then pretend to have been the liberators when they meet the king. And so Mikeš has to fight the Black King, who was played most fearsomely by Petr Halberstadt.
I must also mention the child character of little Mikeš, who was played excellently by Tobiáš Latzka… Isn´t he somehow related to this theatre…? His performance was likeably brave, with clear diction.
The performance had all the attributes of a proper fairy tale, including the required amount of tension and a decent bit of scaring.
I would like to stop here a bit: When I directed the fairy-tale Loktibrada forty years ago, the words: “You are cooking porridge, yes, but you won´t be eating it…” were accompanied by crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning. It was more comical than frightening, but there was still some crying in the auditorium. I had to hold back a lot when it came to scaring. But today? Modern children are so tough that they aren´t afraid of scary things on stage at all. They are trained by PC games, where laser guns do far worse things!
Petr Ulrych and the director of this song-filled show, Igor Ondříček, stuck to the classic traditions of fairy tales, and everything one expects of them. The characters in Roman Šolc´s imaginative costumes also created the wonderful atmosphere of a classic story. So that´s it – here’s a round of applause!
Actually, no, that’s not it, not quite. I should still mention the booklet produced for the performance. Brno City Theatre spectators are now used to the format and content. The book fits exactly in the jacket pocket, and is replete with a rich array of information and pictures, along with photographs from the rehearsals and performance, plus the complete script of the production. However, the editors (playwrights Klára Latzková and Jan Šotkovský) and Patrik Fridrichovský seem to have chosen the texts particularly carefully for The Brave Blacksmith this time. We can learn a lot from them about the fairy tale itself, about Božena Němcová, about when and how the subject was processed. They also acquaint us with blacksmith’s symbols and myths, and the part devoted to the work and life of Petr Ulrych is also very interesting. Karel Čapek´s essay On the Theory of a Fairy Tale from the book Marsyas, or on the Edge of Literature (1931) was also wisely chosen. The whole thing stretches to a total of 177 pages, and is bursting with costume designs, as well as photographs from the older film and TV versions of the fairy tale. It’s not every day that you see such a rich and varied theatre programme crammed into a pocket-size booklet.
I really like to give praise when there is reason for it. In this case I must praise every aspect, and with joy. And now that really is all about this open-air production.
A brave blacksmith started off the summer season at the Bishop´s Courtyard with a premiere
Jaroslav Štěpaník 14. June 2020 zdroj www.novinky.cz
… The director of the musical fairy tale is Igor Ondříček, while the main role of Mikeš was played by Aleš Slanina, and it suited him - he was convincing, natural. Tobiáš Latzka also needs to be mentioned. He had the small role of little Mikeš and did a superb job without any signs of discomfort. He deserved the final applause.
The entire ensemble played their roles in this fairy tale story well, with singing and accompanied by live music. The performance will appeal not only to children but also to adults, as the production team expects. This year, many adults will certainly visit this exceptional and romantic spot to see a fairy tale for a change.
I haven´t seen the film. While it is mostly praised, it is often said that it’s a bit too scary for this genre. The theatre production doesn’t make this impression. The first half takes place to the marching rhythm of the brisk wandering of brave Mikeš in the company of two friends, who later turn out to be tricksters and traitors. Of course, good will win in the end. The embodiment of evil is the Black King. His arrival on an iron horse is immediately fascinating, and brings a whiff of evil to the first part of the production.
The sad kingdom with a sad king is entered in a scene whose atmosphere is effectively portrayed by the innkeeper. The climax in the second part is the encounter with the Black King. It needs to be said that the stage set (which was used in a versatile and purposeful way) was particularly impressive in the part where there was a fight against evil, with all accompanying effects.
The brave blacksmith wins, and two princesses are freed with the help of an old hag, who is a truly ugly woman. Only the third, the most beautiful princess of all, is sought in vain, though perceptive spectators have their suspicions…
The weather for the first performance at the Bishop´s Courtyard this year was also good, meaning that the spectators could leave the premiere happy, and in a good mood. Now, one can only wish for the whole summer to be without a break at Brno’s unique open-air theatre.
Blacksmith Mikeš at the Bishop´s Courtyard
(tr) 10. June 2020 zdroj www.brnozurnal.cz
Brno City Theatre made a good choice when it offered the pleasant and appealing fairy tale musical The Brave Blacksmith to theatregoers after the fast imposed by the coronavirus. The performance stands out perhaps even more in the beautiful evening atmosphere of the Bishop´s Courtyard, with the illuminated towers of the cathedral rising behind it, than it would at a traditional bricks-and-mortar theatre. A dominating element of the production is Petr Ulrych´s music. At the start the dulcimer can be heard, but it isn´t followed by Moravian folk, but rather by music typical of Ulrych - slightly rock-accented, and probably very listenable for all generations. The theatre’s (now 13-member) orchestra cannot be seen, as they are hidden away from possible rain up above in the arcade, but the dulcimer played by the head of the orchestra Petr Gablas, the guitar and the strings can be heard very well everywhere thanks to the good sound system that’s installed. They can in fact be heard throughout the performance, as singing has been given priority over the spoken word.
Petr Ulrych wrote the music and song lyrics for the film of the same name from 1983. The script was based on a fairy tale by Božena Němcová, and Petr Švéda directed. Pavel Kříž, then a young actor at the start of his career, played the blacksmith, and the film also featured Petr Čepek, Vlado Müller and Míla Myslíková. During the Monday premiere, Kříž was invited up on stage at the Bishop´s Courtyard by the director of Brno City Theatre, Stanislav Moša, in order to christen a CD together with the other participants. The CD was of Petr Ulrych´s music, of course - he added eighteen more songs to the musical over and above those used in the film.
The preparations for this pleasant piece took place in a tense situation with regard to the still valid hygiene restrictions. Even just a few days before the premiere, it wasn´t clear whether the performance would have to take place under very restricted conditions, or more bearable ones. Fortunately, the better option was possible. Let us remind you that from 25th May to 7th June a maximum of 300 people could be present at large-scale events. This is a pitifully small number for larger theatres. There are 700 seats installed at the Bishop´s Courtyard, but as Director Moša said, if strict hygienic conditions were to be observed, i.e. if every second row was occupied and there were empty spaces between the spectators, only 200 people would “fit”. Fortunately, from Monday, June 8, there could be 500 people together with no gaps, so the theatre “just” had to postpone the premiere announced for Sunday, June 7, to Monday, June 8. With all the organisational problems that involved, of course.
We can feel the tension and worries of the theatre’s staff when reading the text of the statement released by the Association of Professional Theatres on Tuesday, May 12:
“In recent months, Czech theatre has found itself in a situation, through no fault of its own, which is unparalleled in modern history… The theatre will be one of the most affected segments of life in our society.” At that time the threat that spectators would have to sit separately in the auditorium, with empty spaces between them, still existed. “How could one imagine that spectators can devote their attention intensively to the theatrical art and its enjoyment when their main concern is to keep their distance from other members of the audience, to protect themselves with a face mask, and obey other measures? It is the close physical contact with spectators that enables the miracle of theatre that we all know so well - the shared experience, the common soul of the audience…,” the proclamation continues. The authors also point out the danger of deepening the already lethal economic losses suffered by the industry.
“We are convinced that freedom of assembly, which is the essence of theatre, must be allowed without restriction. We would also welcome the possibility of organising summer outdoor theatre productions from the beginning of June, with a capacity of up to 800 spectators,” the proclamation states. However, only a maximum of 500 spectators are allowed at the Bishop´s Courtyard and everywhere else in June. There was no official reaction to the theatre association’s proclamation by the date of the premiere.
Nevertheless – theatre is performed, and The Brave Blacksmith is entertaining and relaxing. We saw even four-year-old children in the auditorium - they managed to sit through the whole performance. It was based on the screenplay from the above-mentioned film, as Igor Ondříček, the director (and also actor in the role of the (older) Blacksmith), said. The main contributor was the author of the music, Petr Ulrych, who has also set a number of other successful productions to music (Radúz and Mahulena, Koločava, Markéta Lazarová, Máj, etc.). The role of Mikeš, the brave blacksmith, seemed tailor-made for the always pleasant and smiling (even in real life) Aleš Slanina. He was seconded by Jiří Mach as Krajánek and the previously mentioned Igor Ondříček. Matěj and Ondra, played by the proven comedians Jakub Uličník and Kristian Pekar, complete the trio of princess-rescuers, together with Mikeš. Zdeněk Junák plays the role of the (good) King, and Petr Halberstadt, almost a generation younger and full of anger, arrives at the stage as the (bad) Black King, on a high horse and with a monstrous dog. Lucie Bergerová is convincing as the Innkeeper, and you can also see a small boy, Tobiáš Laztka, as Little Mikeš. The authors of the adaptation, Klára Lazková and (again) Igor Ondříček, gave the princesses the first names of the actresses: Eliška, Kristýna and Barbora (Skálová, Gašperáková and Musilová, respectively). The most effective scenes are those where everyone sings, i.e. the princesses take part along with the rest of the ensemble. The impressive fights with halberds and the other movements of the actors were put together by Martin Pacek. Roman Šolc´s costumes were pleasantly matched in shades of brown – next to them the princesses’ shining dresses stood out all the more. The performance is set amongst imaginative, large and humorously designed stage decorations by Jaroslav Milfajt. Positive, even enthusiastic, responses prevail on the social networks.
A fairy tale musical for the whole family
Lukáš Dubský 10. June 2020 zdroj www.i-divadlo.cz/blogy
This year, Brno City Theatre prepared the popular Czech fairy-tale The Brave Blacksmith for its summer stage at the Bishop´s Courtyard. The authors of the theatre screenplay, director Igor Ondříček and dramaturge Klára Latzková, based the story on the film version rather than the original fairy tale by Božena Němcová. They also used the music composed for the film by Petr Ulrych; the composer made more songs for the new production, and so it is a real fairy tale musical.
Ulrych´s music has undeniable qualities - it is a pleasant mixture of folk music and rock, which the skilful ensemble turns into one of the biggest assets of the open-air performance. The new play is only less than two hours long, including the break, so it is easily accessible even for children, though adults will not be bored either, as the fairy tale story provides the required air of detachment that an adult can appreciate, while of course featuring well-defined characters and the necessary moral lessons.
The journeys of the three friends (the choice of Aleš Slanina, Jakub Uličník and Kristian Pekar for the roles was excellent) through the world are particularly comic, and this aspect is likely to appeal to spectators across the age spectrum. Jaroslav Milfajt´s stage arrangement is simple but is able to evoke a fairy tale atmosphere, and there is a decent dose of excitement when Mikeš is wandering through the underground empire of the Black King (Petr Halberstadt) – there are no absolutely scary scenes, but the evil that’s present doesn´t seem ridiculous or toothless.
This fairy tale musical surpasses the usual quality of summer productions, and I imagine it will be a highly sought-after new work in the Brno City Theatre repertoire.
Burn, little flame, burn, and overcome brute force!
Luboš Mareček 10. June 2020 zdroj www.mestohudby.cz
Playwright Klára Latzková and director Igor Ondříček’s new musical fairy-tale is based on a screenplay by Bohumil Steiner and Jaroslav Petřík. It lasts for about an hour and a half, and out of the total time, only about ten minutes is devoted to the spoken word – the rest is all live music and singing. Ulrych´s music thus plays a significant role in determining the mood of the whole evening. The spectators also know many of the songs from the popular film; it is praiseworthy that some original musical numbers were added and the authors didn´t just produce an automatic remake of the popular film. The decision to use a thirteen-member live orchestra instead of just going for a pre-recorded soundtrack and half playback is yet another plus point for the show.
Ulrych´s musical style draws from Moravian folk music, and so this production will resonate here in Brno all the more. The orchestra features both a dulcimer and a bass guitar. These instruments, in natural contrast, musically determine and distinguish the two different worlds in the production – the world of good, that is the one of blacksmiths, and the world of evil, represented by the Black King. Ulrych also included a violin and other folk instruments: you will hear violas, a double bass, flutes, as well as an oboe, a guitar and, of course, drums. The songs are pleasant, unobtrusive and crystalline in their simplicity, and their words are (intentionally) almost naïve, as the whole fairy tale is based on a clear distinction between good and evil, and the struggle between them.
As was already suggested, it is pleasant and praiseworthy that the whole result is not a mere simple recycling of an earlier film hit. In his production, director Igor Ondříček successfully replaced the animation and digital possibilities of a film (tricks and magic) with a consistent stage adaptation. It is the inventive use of props, costumes and their sudden changes, the use of giant puppets or objects (the Black King, the iron horse) in combination with the catchy music and simple lyrics that make the production such an enjoyable show. I was really afraid that the creators would make use of those video projections which are so popular at Brno City Theatre here. That would have taken spectators through the world of magic word-for-word and without imagination. However, stage miracles and wonders arise here simply within the minds of the audience. Examples of this are when Matěj balances on the stage with a high stack of sacks of flour, when the dancer changes the colour of her costume four times and so takes spectators through the four seasons, or when the strongman Ondra fights using a huge tree trunk, which then has to be taken away by three other actors. All this is done to preserve not only the sober and non-artificial poetics of the original magical fairy tale narrative, but also the simplicity of Němcová´s language and Ulrych´s music.
Another strength of the open-air evening is the charming scenery by Jaroslav Milfajt, who placed riveted objects across the stage. It looks as if these flat metal hills with trees or a mill on their horizon came from the hands of a skilled blacksmith, which Mikeš undoubtedly is. The simple scenery enables twists in the story to take place entirely within the framework of non-overdecorated and effective theatrical storytelling.
Excellent music constantly emanates from this fairy tale: the major role of the narrator, Krajánek, exhibits traces of Ulrych´s unmistakable musical language from the above-mentioned film. In Jiří Mach´s skilled performance one can hear not only the author of the music, but also the results of the actor´s excellent training in folk singing. Almost everyone will find something in the songs here, and the spectators can look forward to pleasant (non-alternated!) singing performances from Aleš Slanina in the main role, Eliška Skálová as Princess Eliška and Lucie Bergerová as the Innkeeper. One can now go to see a simple but all the more impressive musical fairy tale production beneath Petrov.