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Aréna Theatre spurs renaissance of mime and comedy

Mime and comedy have returned to life in Bratislava at the capital's reopened Aréna Theatre. First opened in 1828, Aréna has recently become a major organiser of mime workshops and host to the Kaukliar International Mime Festival. But theatre director Milan Sládek says that the best is yet to come.
"Pantomime is the theatre and expression which from the dawn of civilisation has accompanied human beings in their fight for life, as well as in their games, contacts with nature and gods, and the powers which they depend on," said Sládek, whose Aréna opens for its 3rd season on October 1.
Sládek evaluates Aréna's success as "remarkable." For the past two years, three generations of mimes have met to perform at his Kaukliar festival, as well as comedians who have been plying their trade on European stages for decades.


The godfather of mime, Milan Sládek, gave new life to Aréna.
Courtesy of Aréna

Mime and comedy have returned to life in Bratislava at the capital's reopened Aréna Theatre. First opened in 1828, Aréna has recently become a major organiser of mime workshops and host to the Kaukliar International Mime Festival. But theatre director Milan Sládek says that the best is yet to come.

"Pantomime is the theatre and expression which from the dawn of civilisation has accompanied human beings in their fight for life, as well as in their games, contacts with nature and gods, and the powers which they depend on," said Sládek, whose Aréna opens for its 3rd season on October 1.

Sládek evaluates Aréna's success as "remarkable." For the past two years, three generations of mimes have met to perform at his Kaukliar festival, as well as comedians who have been plying their trade on European stages for decades. Sládek now plans to open a chapter of the International Institute of the Theatre of Movement, as well as to create a modern mime center, a permanent mime group with local and foreign soloists, and stage a regular international mime festival.

"In all cultures, the world of silent mimic expression and gestures are the source of basic relations, necessities, joys and sorrows of human beings - along with traditional Japanese theatre, Chinese opera, comedia dell'arte and Chaplin slapstick comedies," continued Sládek. The eloquence of Sládek's own "silent language" has raised his pantomimes to the level of dramatic theatre, while the graceful movements employed in his acts have made him famous throughout Europe.

Born in 1938, Sládek studied at the School of Applied Arts and Theatre at the College of Performing Arts in Bratislava. Then he continued his studies at Studio D34, under the important Czech avant-garde theatre director F. F. Burian. Sládek and his troupe played around Europe until 1968, when his theatre was shut down by the invading Soviet Army. Sládek escaped to Germany, where he opened the KEFKA mime theatre in Cologne, and founded the International Mime Festival in 1976. Since 1994, he has been the director of the Aréna theatre and a professor of mime at an Essen college.


Relax, pal. Mimes and comedians abound at Aréna Theatre.
Courtesy of Aréna

"Mime allows an actor to find new and more intense possibilities of expression," said Sládek. "The actor is more personal and has a chance to elaborate on his theme according to his talent, his inner abilities , his experience and philosophy of life. The theatre of mime is exclusively an author's theatre," he concluded. "This beauty cannot be taken away by megalomaniac musical productions."

Weakness, strength, humanity, vitality, elegance, sensuality, dark humour, poignancy, love, hope, horror, loneliness, war, absurdy, mystery, masks, marionettes, fantasy - all of these are themes present in the performances of Milan Sládek himself in shows like Mimes, Figaro's Wedding, Kefka and Grand Pierrot.

Aréna Theatre has the longest history of all theatres in Bratislava. In 1828, J. A. Stoger, a theatre entrepreneur, realised his dream to build an open-air theatre in Bratislava. The wooden stage hosted German and Hungarian touring theatre societes during the summer months. Even today, the building's architectural style recalls the Jugendstil idiom of the period around 1910.

After its 1994 reconstruction, Aréna Theatre began to offer traditional theatre in the original style. The theatre invites all comers to a pre-season performance of the "Unfinished Symphony" a music and dance project from Japan and the US prepared in cooperation with the Association of Contemporary Dance, on September 24 at 19:00. The regular season begins on October 1. Tickets are available at PKO Ticket Office at Hviezdoslavovo námestie 24.

Divadlo Aréna, Viedenská cesta 10, Bratsilava. Reservations at 07/846 875 and tickets are available at PKO Ticket Ofiffice, Hviezdoslavovo námestie 24, Tel.: 07/53 33 867. Admission form 90 to 130 Sk.

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