Popular marionette theater reopens in Prague

Hurvínek y Spejbl, foto: ČTK

After two years of reconstruction, Prague’s famed marionette theatre “Divadlo Spejbla a Hurvínka” is reopening its doors on Thursday. The newly renovated location is the home of the Czech Republic’s most famous puppets, the father-son pair of Spejbl and Hurvínek, and will also feature a puppet museum. Sarah Borufka reports.

Spejbl and Hurvínek,  photo: CTK
Almost every Czech child knows the voices of the Czech Republic’s most famous marionette characters, father Spejbl and his son Hurvínek. The two puppets are extremely popular and this year, they are celebrating their 80th anniversary.

The milestone coincides with the Spejbl and Hurvínek theatre company’s return to its Dejvice location after two years of reconstruction work on the theatre. Helena Štáchová has been the theatre’s director for the past 14 years.

“We are really looking forward to coming back to our home here, because the theater has undergone a great number of changes. The stage elevation is much better now, so every child can see what’s going on. There’s also a new puppet museum, the space is wheelchair accessible now, and so all these changes will really make it a great experience for our visitors.”

Helena Štáchová,  photo: CTK
The puppet theatre will open its doors on Thursday evening with a performance for adults. Though the company’s repertoire was originally aimed at children, the theatre also puts on evening performances for grown-ups, which are quite different from the children’s plays.

“They have a completely different dramaturgy, different topics and a different style as well. For children, we try to keep the illusion alive, but adults like to get some insight into the technical side of how a puppet theatre works. Most of all, the plays are based more on what’s going on in society and politics, whereas for children we put on fairy tales and stories they can relate to.”

The reopened theatre will also house a museum with hundreds of puppets, not only from the Spejbl and Hurvínek ensemble, but also those of such animation greats as Jiří Trnka.

Divadlo Spejbla a Hurvínka,  photo: CTK
The father and son pair has not only featured in stage plays. They have also released countless records, tapes and, in recent years, DVDs. The record label Supraphon has sold over five million copies of the Spejbl and Hurvínek recordings, and will award a diamond record to the theatre company’s director this year, as well as putting out an anniversary CD box set. Two 3D animation films featuring the characters are also in the works.

Over the past 80 years, countless famous Czech actors and singers have lent their voices to recordings with the puppets, including Karel Gott, Waldemar Matuška, Helena Vondráčková and Rudolf Hrušinský.