English-Language Staging of Cimrman’s ‘Pub in the Glade’ a Hoot
In Pub in the Glade, Cimrman English Theatre’s latest English-language rendition of a classic Jára Cimrman play, an innkeeper at the titular location - a remote pub in the middle of the Czech wilderness - connives to keep two unlikely guests around for as long as he can to save himself from loneliness (and pad his pockets).
It’s a nifty little premise filled with over-the-top gags, broad humor, and subtle asides that only those who have been paying attention will get, and kept the audience in an engaging balance between fits of laughter and mild chuckles.
Michael Pitthan plays the innkeeper at the pub, whose only companion is a mannequin called Ludvik. But out of the sky - quite literally - drops the real-life Count Zeppelin (Adam Stewart) when an errant shot sinks his blimp. While the Count is eager to get back in the air, the Innkeeper’s quick thinking and the promise of a soon-to-return daughter plays on his his amorous curiosity and gets him to stick around.
Into their lives wanders an escaped convict, Kulhánek (Curt Matthew), who is likewise seduced by romantic prospects into waiting for the return of the non-existent daughter. Climactic plot developments neatly weave Zeppelin’s story into the prisoner’s; one final staging gag came as a genuine surprise and even drew gasps.
Stewart has a lot of robust fun with the showy role of the Count, who frequently regales the audience with his over-the-top lust for the innkeeper’s imaginary daughter. All three actors, however, keep things moving along at a briskly fun pace with their broadly comic interpretations.
But most of the fun that’s had with these plays is the knowledge that the author, Jára Cimrman, does not really exist; a 1960’s creation of Zdeněk Svěrák, Ladislav Smoljak, and others (more about the history of Cimrman here), the meta-narrative is enriched by advanced knowledge of the fictional playwright's exploits.
To give the audience such insight, in the tradition of previous plays and their Czech-language originals, the dramatic staging of Pub in the Glade is preceded by an hour-long ‘seminar’ that recalls a wryly comedic university lecture.
Here, various speakers, including the actors who appear in the play proper, introduce some of Cimrman’s techniques and inventions, many of which will be touched upon during the performance.
These include a rundown of Cimrman’s quest for perfecting poetry, in which the character develops a escalating series of awful rhyming schemes, as well as such seemingly-practical inventions like a sauna-like soundproof wooden box for violin students to save their parent’s ears.
Directed by Peter Hosking, who starred in Cimrman English Theatre’s previous adaptations, Pub in the Glade is nicely staged and a lot of fun. Special mention must go to writer Brian Stewart, whose feat of translating Cimrman’s word-based humor into another language results in jokes that repeatedly hit as intended.
Pub in the Glade continues a fine tradition of bringing classic Czech comedy to English-speaking audiences, and the care that has been taken into account transcribing the original humor to a different language has been much appreciated.
In case you’ve missed any of the previous shows, you can catch them later this month along with an encore performance of Pub in the Glade in December.
Later this week, you can catch Conquest of the North Pole in Prague on Friday, November 24, at 19:00. The Theatre will also be bringing The Stand-In to České Budějovice for the very first time on Thursday, November 30.
Lead photo via Facebook / Cimrman English Theatre