At National Theatre, a new season begins

Jan Burian, Jiří Rusnok, photo: CTK

The month of August was nothing if not turbulent for the Czech National Theatre, which saw its new director recalled from his position on day one by the government, before uproar led to his hasty reinstatement. His return – and the guarantee the theatre will retain its independence – means most actors who quit in protest came back for the new season.

Jan Burian,  Jiří Rusnok,  photo: CTK
Only a few weeks ago it appeared it was curtains for the new season at the National Theatre but like some stories this one had a happy ending. On Monday, Jan Burián – widely considered to be the best man for the job – was officially confirmed in the post of theatre director by outgoing Prime Minister Jiří Rusnok. The move can be considered a victory not only for Mr Burián but for the talent and team members who supported him and opposed what they considered a ham-fisted and highly-unfortunate approach by interim Culture Minister Jiří Balvin. Now the dust has settled and on Monday the prime minister himself wished the theatre director luck.

“Mr Burian, break a leg... I wish the rest of you a wonderful season.”

The situation had improved dramatically from just a few weeks ago; even so, one key actor opted not to return following the incident: Richard Krajčo whose Richard III was a major draw worth hundreds of thousands of crowns in sales. The actor made clear even now he had not accepted the situation, apparently standing by his earlier decision to return only if the culture minister resigned.

“I am approaching the problem as a citizen who is more than a little ashamed of our politicians.”

Richard Krajčo,  photo: Jana Chládková
Other well-known actors argue that Jan Burián’s reinstatement – along with a guarantee there would be no additional meddling by the government – was enough. Václav Postránecký said this, speaking to Czech TV:

“Now that the situation has stabilised, I think it is our duty to help the new director show that he is the right man for the job.”

The highly popular Miroslav Donutil, a veteran of Czech film and the stage, also agreed to return, if only on a freelance basis. Like Richard Krajco, Mr Donutil is a major draw: not surprisingly the National Theatre has already reported the actor will star in a new play next March, alongside another crowd favourite Iva Janžurová.