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BRATISLAVA'S ARÉNA THEATRE PRESENTS NEW DIRECTOR AND ARTISTIC PROGRAMME

Curtains up for an old venue made new

ACTORS are often tempted to add a new dimension to their artistic work by changing how they practise their craft. Some switch from the big screen to theatre, others move from the spotlight to behind the camera to become directors. Slovak actor Juraj Kukura has recently left the stage to become the director of Bratislava's newly renovated Aréna theatre.
And it is not just any kind of theatre that Kukura is giving new life. Built in 1828 as an open-air venue, Aréna has the longest tradition of all the theatres in the capital. It received its current design in 1899 and from then until the second world war it hosted many outstanding international and domestic theatrical groups. Among the most popular were Theater an der Wien, in which the legendary Austrian director Max Reinhardt worked as an actor.


ARÉNA's new director Juraj Kukura wants to open the venue to all types of performer.
photo: TASR

ACTORS are often tempted to add a new dimension to their artistic work by changing how they practise their craft. Some switch from the big screen to theatre, others move from the spotlight to behind the camera to become directors. Slovak actor Juraj Kukura has recently left the stage to become the director of Bratislava's newly renovated Aréna theatre.

And it is not just any kind of theatre that Kukura is giving new life. Built in 1828 as an open-air venue, Aréna has the longest tradition of all the theatres in the capital. It received its current design in 1899 and from then until the second world war it hosted many outstanding international and domestic theatrical groups. Among the most popular were Theater an der Wien, in which the legendary Austrian director Max Reinhardt worked as an actor.

The communist period, which started in 1948, saw the building used as a warehouse. Then, five years after the 1989 fall of the regime, mime artist Milan Sládek reopened the theatre and made it the home of his mime group. Even though the theatre was staging performances, it was not being used to its full potential, so last summer Sládek decided to leave Slovakia over what he considered poor treatment and inadequate funding by the Culture Ministry.

The concept that the new director Kukura presented for the revival of Aréna, does not see the venue only as a theatre but as "an open cultural space". The programme for the opening season includes the musical Joan of Arc, featuring Czech pop star Lucie Bílá, which has seen 800 performances in Prague, and will soon be translated into English to be performed in London's West End. The two concert highlights (see box), before the summer festivals start, are British trip-hop band Sneaker Pimps and the Asian Dub Foundation, considered one of Britain's best live bands.

A traditional event, hosted by Aréna for the seventh time, will be an annual festival of contemporary modern dance entitled Bratislava in Movement. This year's exclusive guests will be dancer Xavier Le Roy from Germany and the Charles Linehan group from the UK. The programme will also feature performances by Slovak dance artists and a dance theory workshop.

The reopening of Aréna is not the only positive cultural development on the right bank of the Danube. The city is planning to create a space by the water dedicated to leisure activities and cultural events. The planned activities include the planting of trees, the running of a propeller ferry between the two sides of the river, and the rebuilding of the Aucafé, a popular restaurant that was destroyed by bombing at the end of the second world war.


THE THEATRE was built in 1828.
photo: Saša Petrášová

When Kukura speaks about his plans for the future of Aréna, it seems that the sky is the limit. His aim is to cross artistic and geographical borders, providing a space for alternative, noncommercial art from Slovakia and abroad. Ultimately, he would like the theatre to live up to its name and become an arena for culture.

Upcoming events

Concert: Sneaker Pimps, March 28 at 20:00.
Musical: Joan of Arc, April 28-May 1 at 19:00.
Concert: Asian Dub Foundation, May 9.
Festival: Bratislava in Movement, May 24-31.
Aréna Theatre, Viedenská cesta 10, Bratislava. Tel: 02/6720-0053.

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