Owners — Czech movie and theatre play which awed critics — now set to premiere in Warsaw theatre

'Society of Owners' in Och-Teatr, Warsaw, photo: Czech Television

The popular Czech play Society of Owners (Společenství vlastníků) was successfully adopted into a domestic film last year, drawing nearly 300,000 viewers and wining Czech lion awards. Now it seems to be also breaking through abroad, with the Och-Teatr in Warsaw staging its own theatre version of the play. The country, has just been through a divisive election, and the authors of the Polish adaptation say it may be the perfect place for the comedy that pokes jokes at groups unwilling to compromise.

After it first premiered in Karlín’s Vosto5 theatre in 2017, Society of Owners quickly accumulated positive reviews and large audiences. The play has a very simple setting – a meeting of flat owners who all live in a house that needs reconstruction. However, as soon as the negotiations surrounding repairs get underway, the viewer is confronted with a wide variety of characters that are all hell bent on pushing their ideas, often with little tolerance for compromises.

The premise of the play was adopted into a Czech feature-length movie last year with a bristling cast and proved to be a great success on the silver screen as well. Directed by Jiří Havelka, who is also the author and director of the original theatre comedy, the film grossed four times as much as it cost to make and received 12 Czech lion nominations, three of which its cast and screenwriter got to take home.

Czech film 'Vlastníci',  photo: Czech Television

Despite being set in a single room, the film appealed to Czech audiences, because many could relate to the situation through their own experiences.

The original theatre version of the comedy is set to premiere abroad in Warsaw’s Och Teatr theatre this Thursday as Wspólnota mieszkaniowa.

Actress Izabella Olejnik, who is part of the cast, says that she was struck by the kaleidoscope of realistic characters when studying for the play.

“In this play we can find a full variety of [people] within society, full of jealousy, stupidity and other things. I don’t have to tell you enough how adequate it is for our present time in Poland and not only here but worldwide.”

With Och Teatr’s large stage and capacity of nearly 450 seats, the Polish version is less intimate than its Czech original and lacks one of its symbolic components – the boardroom table. Aside from the setting, the director Krystina Janda has also made the play rougher, says Ms Olejnik.

“Krystina Janda’s adaptation is different, more funny, crazy, sad and cruel.”

Poles often point out that they like the Czech tendency for mixing tragedy and comedy into one. In fact, actor Grzegorz Warchoł, who is playing the character of the stubborn Mr Kubát in the play, told Czech Television that they are sometimes sad that they do not possess the same type of humour.

Asked about whether the mirror into many of the tendencies in modern societal discourse will be too much for Poles, Ms Olejnik says she is unsure.

“I think it will be difficult for some people. Společenství vlastníků [Society of Owners] will not be for everybody I think.”