They said it would be madness and so it proved…
Many people generously provided funds out of their own pockets (including the entire group who went) so that 10 members of The New Factory of the Eccentric Actor can head off to Cesky Krumlov in Bohemia. An epic two day train journey to the Czech Republic, to present ‘Jubilee’ by Anton Chekhov at the very first Souladění Festival at no charge to the audience (or anyone else for that matter).
The director (yours truly) works with the English cast before leaving, and everyone heads off for 13 days of adventure. So…
We had a great time. Yes we couldn’t do the play in both Czech and English as planned, as we simply couldn’t find enough Czech speaking performers. We did however find a couple of young Czechs who fearlessly threw themselves into the production. I think they were a little shell-shocked at times by the intrinsically eccentric nature of the company (not to mention a particularly volatile notes session – mea culpa), but they claimed to have enjoyed the whole thing as much as we did. I doubt they’ll forget us in a hurry.
One or two highlights…
We rehearsed (and performed) in ‘The Stolen Gallery’, an old laundry in the centre of Cesky Krumlov. Very New Factory – no toilets, no lights (though there was some electricity), but a wonderful open space. We had the use of the place for a week for nothing, and saw an eclectic mix of events there (they have a different event every sunday night).
Three of the cast went off rafting one afternoon just prior to a thunderstorm of biblical proportions breaking out. They arrived safely at their destination, but despite promises to the contrary weren’t picked up by the rafting company and ended up stuck in a cab in a flash flood with water up to the wheel arches. We had intermittent phone calls from inside the cab, and It would be true to say that we were very, very worried. They were however rescued by the emergency services, and rushed back to CK in a police van with blue lights flashing, and the show went on.
Me explaining the plot to a mainly Czech speaking audience whilst having it simultaneously translated into Czech by two young people who couldn’t entirely agree on the correct translation on more than one occasion. I then encouraged the audience to raise their hands if they didn’t understand what was going own at any time during the performance, so I could stop the show and explain, again a simultaneous translation took place. I asked one young woman who raised her hand what she didn’t understand, and she replied “Everything”.
The purists may baulk at the idea, but we did write our own song “Our Bank” and I shamelessly shoe-horned it into the show, one of the highlights I thought. I also introduced a lift scene (a scene that took place in a lift with suitable lift music played live), not in the original stage directions I know, but I think it’s what Chekhov would have wanted had he made the trip with us. I will refrain from mentioning the name of the individual whom (if only for a passing minute) I did manage to convince that “all of Chekhov’s plays have a lift scene in them, though they are usually cut”.
The trip was by turns difficult, uncomfortable, tiring, joyous, and unforgettable. For me it was a pleasure to go back to one of Chekhov’s shorts, and discover once again how fabulous they can be if you can get a talented, and committed group of collaborators together to work on it.
ps the trip was filmed, so watch out for news of the finished article…
You can check out some posts about the trip on The New Factory blog here>>>