Spejbl and Hurvinek have been awarded prize Thalia

Lets play

Praha 6

History

Josef SkupaThe Spejbl (Spaybul) and Hurvínek (Hurveenek) Theatre (The S+H Theatre) was founded in Pilsen in 1930, as the first professional puppet theatre of the new type by prof. Josef Skupa (1892–1957). The theatre’s primary protagonists – Spejbl (1920) and Hurvínek (1926) had already made their successful debuts in popular cabaret shows on the amateur stage of the Puppet Theatre of Ferial Camps. The theatre played as a touring company based in Pilsen until 1943. In January 1944 however, prof. Skupa was arrested by the Gestapo, convicted, and the theatre was closed by the Nazi authorities. In February 1945 prof. Skupa managed to escape from the Dresden prison during a fire and at the end of the war, in October 1945, opened the S+H Theatre in Prague as a permanent act.

After Skupa’s death, his student Miloš Kirschner (1927–1996) took up the roles of the protagonists Spejbl and Hurvínek, having alternated both the titular roles throughout the life of his teacher. At the end of his life, Prof. Skupa named him his successor. The theatre was therefore able to successfully carry on the artistic effort needed to bring his slapstick humour and satirical worldview to life on the stage. Miloš Kirschner went on to perform with both puppets for 13 years longer than prof. Josef Skupa, was a playwright, director and theatre manager. He introduced the tradition of foreign-language performances. The Theatre’s plays are always performed in the language of the host country.

Helena Štáchová

The main characters in all productions are Spejbl and Hurvínek – father and son – each representing a single generation and that generation’s worldview. They act out the primary roles in everyday or fantastical stories and vaudeville, shows made up of short sketches. They are detached commentators, philosophising about the basic questions of life. Their traditional counterparties have been a similar female couple, Hurvínek’s inseparable friend Mánička (1930) and her educationally-minded “grandma”, Mrs Kateřina Hovorková (1971). This primary foursome is complemented by Spejbl and Hurvínek’s dog Žeryk (1930) and sometimes other characters.

Miloš Kirschner

Spejbl and Hurvínek are traditionally voiced by the same actor, alternating between the deep voice of Spejbl as the father and Hurvínek’s comical childish falsetto This tradition was started in the 1920s by prof. Skupa, Miloš Kirschner continued it for over 40 years, similarly Martin Klásek (1957) who was – after being hand-picked and properly trained by Kirschner – first introduced to a child audience in the roles of Spejbl and Hurvínek in 1974 and from 1982 onward regularly alternated with Kirschner. After Miloš Kirschner’s death he became the third “father” of Spejbl and Hurvínek. Similarly to Josef Skupa and Miloš Kirschner, Martin Klásek also writes plays and directs the productions. The Theatre mainly plays for a local audience, but several times a year heads out on shorter or longer foreign tours.

Martin Klásek

The S+H Theatre has so far been hosted by 34 countries on four continents, including Germany, the USA, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Spain, Vietnam and others. As interpreted by Miloš Kirschner, Spejbl and Hurvínek have performed in eighteen languages, fifteen as played by Martin Klásek. Spejbl and Hurvínek have talked in twenty-two different languages altogether. Similarly the voices of Mánička and Mrs Kateřina traditionally belong to a single actress. This role was first filled by Anna Kreuzmannová (1899 – 1994), followed by Božena Weleková (1910 – 1979), with Mánička significantly influenced by her third puppeteer Helena Štáchová (1944 – 2017), who managed to transform Mánička into a modern girl, Hurvínek’s friend and peer. Helena Štáchová was also a manager, playwright and director of the S+H Theatre. In fact the final base character – Kateřina Hovorková or grandma – was written with her in mind. The year 2017 was in many ways pivotal for the S+H Theatre. For the first time, audiences were introduced to the fourth generation of puppeteers. Alternating for the first time with Martin Klásek, Ondřej Lážnovský (1975) began playing the roles of Spejbl and Hurvínek, also contributing writing and directing, with Mánička and grandma being picked up from Helena Štáchová by Marie Šimsová (1980). The role of Žeryk was first filled by Tomáš Slepánek (1979). These protagonists have a number of significant collaborators, who also operate and voice puppets, or rather marionettes on strings (instead of wires, as is usual), being an extremely difficult discipline, at which the marionettists at the S+H Theatre are masters. On 23 March 2013, Spejbl and Hurvínek were awarded a special Thálie Award for lifelong mastery in puppet theatre.