NÁMĚSTÍ BRATŘÍ MAŠÍNŮ / THE COAST OF BOHEMIA
Cast: 10 women, 19 men
Alfréd Radok Award for the Best Czech staged play of 2009. Second prize in the Alfréd Radok Foundation’s Award for best Czech play 2007.
A play about immobility
The protagonists of this play are stuck in the stagnating water of their trivial and absurd existence. Even death cannot save them from it, however attractive it may appear. Vendelin, on an incapacity benefit pension, has had no success either as a lover, a husband, a father or a grandfather; he’s also unsuccessful as a ticket controller on thePraguepublic transport system. Even the reason for his disability is embarrassing. Rita, a Jehovah’s Witness is lonely and not entirely normal, similar to Jeronym, the homeless seller of the Czech equivalent to the Big Issue magazine. Zapik the pop-singer, with his fake English and open-necked shirt is a sad remnant of the period of Communist normalization. None of the other characters had had any luck nor are their lives dignified. The fragments of their fates intersect in the first part of the play, with the title Czech Grief, at a fancy dress party: the heroes come here in bizarre costumes representing animals and plants, embarrassingly comic scenes intercut with fantasy appearances of the Swan Woman, representing Death; Vendelin tries in vain to finally lie down in her arms. The second half, called CzechSeaside, begins as an almost realistic situation set in a hijacked tramway in which an unknown terrorist keeps the passengers as hostages. Step by step we find out that all the people on the tram are somehow connected to Vendelin – they are lovers and friends from his past. Even the terrorist demanding to be taken to the MašinBrothers Square, where he claims the Czech seaside is located, is Vendelin’s son Hynek. But Vendelin will not die a heroic death in an exploding tramway, nor will he live to be kissed by the Swan Woman: awaiting him is waking up at an Intensive Care Unit, his wife Petra, festering stagnating water and immobility.
The play is available also in English translation.