Czech theatre legend Jiří Suchý celebrates 90th birthday

Jiří Suchý

This Friday marks the 90 birthday of the acclaimed Czech actor, singer, songwriter, playwright and director Jiří Suchý. After more than 60 years on stage, the living legend of Czech theatre is still going strong. He will mark the occasion with a special concert at Prague’s Semafor theatre, called “I know of Even Older People.”

At the age of 90, the multitalented artist and performer Jiří Suchý is still in top form. Born on October 1, 1931 in Pilsen, Jiří Suchý has been a part of the Czech cultural scene for more than half a century. Even the youngest generations are familiar with the hits he wrote together with composer Jiří Šlitr, the other part of a famous musical and comic duo, featured in the 1960’s musicals and films.

Jiří Šlitr and Jiří Suchý | Photo: Czech Television

The name of Jiří Suchý will be forever associated with the Semafor theatre in Prague, which he co-founded with Jiří Šlitr in 1959, and which immediately achieved a cult status.

The theatre helped to launch the careers of many Czech singers and actors, including Karel Gott and Hana Hegerová and produced some of the biggest Czechoslovak pop hits ever.

Speaking to Czech Radio on the occasion of his 90th birthday, Jiří Suchý said the start of his acting career wasn’t easy, since he has never been a natural actor:

“I had no talent at all. But my desire to do theatre and to do it my way was so great that I somehow managed to do it. But I can't say I'm a good actor, because I can only play myself.”

The golden era of Semafor came to an abrupt end with the unexpected death of Jiří Šlitr in 1969. Suchý decided to carry on and established a new partnership with the actress Jitka Molavcová, which continues to this day.

In the 1970s, Suchý openly supported the anti-Communist opposition. As a result, much of his work was blacklisted by the authorities and he was forced to step down as director of Semafor.

Despite Communist persecution, he wrote his most popular play ever at the time, called Kytice or a Bouquet of Folk Legends, which has been staged more than 600 times.

After the fall of the Communist regime, Suchý returned to the post of Semafor’s director to face all kinds of new challenges, from financial difficulties to the devastating floods of 2002.

Despite the setbacks, his theatre still carries on and so does Jiří Suchý, who, despite his age, is still performing and writing new plays:

“I have a great role model, a German actor of Dutch origin Johannes Heesters. When he was 106, he toured all over Germany with his one-man show, and died at the age of 108. So if I could be active until 106, I don’t really care what happens after that!”