The Spejbl (Spaybul) and Hurvínek (Hurveenek) Theatre was established in Pilsen in 1930 by Prof. Josef Skupa (18921957) as the first professional puppet theatre in Czechoslovakia. Its main characters Spejbl (1920) and Hurvínek (1926) had found previous success on the amateur puppetry scene in popular cabaret shows. The travelling theatre was based in Pilsen until 1942. In January 1944, Professor Skupa was arrested by the Gestapo, convicted of anti-fascist resistance and the Nazi authorities closed the theatre down. In February 1945, Skupa managed to escape from his prison in Dresden when it burnt down and shortly after the war, in October 1945, he opened the S + H Theatre based permanently in Prague, where it has remained to this day. Following Skupa’s death, his pupil Miloš Kirschner (1927 - 1996), took on the role of both Spejbl and Hurvínek. Beforehand, he and Skupa had alternated the roles. At the end of his life, by means of an open letter, Skupa named Kirschner his successor. Thus, the theatre continued with its artistic endeavours to depict a grotesquely humorous and satirical view on life. In the end, Miloš Kirschner played both roles for 13 years longer than Prof J. Skupa, in addition he wrote and directed the plays. Likewise, he introduced a tradition of acting out the play in the language of the host country.
The main characters in all S + H Theatre productions are Spejbl and Hurvínek – a father/son team representing the differing views on the world between the generations. They are the main actors in tales of day-to-day life and fantasy episodes, giving their comments and taking in the philosophical aspects of basic ques tions to life. Their antagonists are two women, Hurvínek’s inseparable friend Mánička (1930) and her educationally minded “granny” Mrs. Kateřina Hovorková (1971). These four and the Spejbls’ dog Žeryk (1930) form the basis for the comic tales, supplemented by other figures as required by the script.
It is traditional for one actor to play the parts of Spejbl and Hurvínek, alternating between the father’s sonorous voice and the child’s comic falsetto. This tradition goes back to the 1920s and Prof. Skupa continued with it for 40 years as did Miloš Kirschner and today’s performer Martin Klásek (1957), who was chosen and trained by Kirschner and first played both roles in front of an audience of children in 1974. Since 1982, he has regularly alternated the roles. Following the death of Miloš Kirschner, he has become the third father of S+H. He also took over the writing and direction of the plays.
Most of the productions are held in the Czech Republic, however, the theatre makes several trips abroad, varying in their length.
So far, the S+H Theatre has visited 31 countries across four continents including, Germany, USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Spain, Vietnam, etc. Under Miloš Kirschner, Spejbl and Hurvínek acted in eighteen languages and twelve under Martin Klásek. So far, they have spoken 21 languages in all. Both are seconded by Helena Štáchová (1944), the current manager, one of the key authors and director of the S+H Theatre. In the roles of Mánička and Mrs. Kateřina, she forms the female counterparts of S+H. She too is the third “mother” of Mánička, taking on the role from Anna Kreuzmannová and Božena Weleková. However, the role of Mrs. Kateřina was made especially for her in 1971. These main actors have a number of superb co-workers, who through their masterful puppetry lend the marionettes, which are so typical for the theatre, their characteristic motions.