EVEN though Ireland and Slovakia are not large countries in terms of area or population, and despite not being neighbours and even having sea between them, cultural contacts between them are lively. It is not just big literary names such as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett or William Butler Yeats that are well known in Slovakia: works by contemporary Irish dramatists and writers have also been staged and translated in Slovakia.
“There are groups of Slovaks who are very proficient in Irish music, Irish dance and Irish drama,” Kathryn Coll, the Irish ambassador to Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator.
A young theatre company, Divadlo Kontra, has specialised in modern Irish theatre and successfully performed Slovak translations of Irish plays. Their first play, Howie and Rookie by Mark O’Rowe, met with great success among critics as well as audiences. The group collected a number of prestigious national prizes with the play and performed it at festivals abroad including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Afterwards it staged Rum and Vodka by Conor McPherson and Stones in his Pockets by Marie Jones.
The Slovak National Theatre (SND) has established a successful cooperation with Opera Ireland in Dublin and the Czech National Theatre from Prague, and staged Ariadne on Naxos, an opera by one of the most popular and recognised composers of the twentieth century, Richard Strauss. Opera Ireland hosted a show directed by Dieter Kaegi at the end of March and beginning of April last year.
There are a number of Irish dance groups – such as Petronella and Avalon – and Irish dance schools in Slovakia. Many Irish performers have taken part in musical events in Slovakia including the Cassidys, The Hogs, and Camille O’Sullivan, to mention just a few.
According to the Irish Embassy, the literary work of writers including William Trevor, Maeve Binchy and John B. Keane has also been translated into the Slovak language. The Slovak publisher of these works has an Irish connection, in that his sister is married to the brother of John B. Keane. In 2002 he arranged to have James Joyce’s Ulysses translated into Slovak.
And with work on the translation of a prize-winning novel by contemporary Irish writer Sebastian Barry well underway, Slovaks can look forward to more Irish culture in the future.