Press, review 17/10/07, Kateřina Lánská


The Autumn season at Alfred ve dvoře / Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre opens with several premieres, and we will introduce you briefly to at least one of them. Mime and all round improvisation artist Vojta Švejda appears in a new role. He created the new performance, „Albert´s Fear ", with an individual whom many consider to be among the masters of movement theatre, James Donlon, and all fans of a world of suggestion certainly have something to look forward to. The premiere was on the 17th October, further performances on the 18th, 19th October, and no more for the rest of the year!

In his performance, Vojta Švejda analyzes the concept of fear. He takes the audience into the world of little Albert, whose imagination prepares many pitfalls for him. Apparently banal situations are transformed into dramatic adventures, and little Albert is drawn into several big struggles. The traps, as we might expect, are not however laid in his surroundings, but in his own shyness and aggravated experience.

Those of you who can still remember well the anxious, contrained feelings which gripped you on the way to the dark cellar, where you quickly and almost blindly threw a few potatoes into a bag, will love Vojta' s performance. A child' s fear can take on truly cosmic dimensions, and Vojta Švejda promises „perhaps this is why the audience will be also afraid, along with Albert."

The performance is conceived as a series of individual scenes from a typical day in Albert' s life. Vojta represents a wide variety of Albert' s stories, feelings and fantasies with virtuosity, supported by the reading of adventure stories, so within moments, he draws us into the action with his solitary movement across the stage. His acting creations are accompanied by two musicians, Jiří Mráz and Martin Zpěvák who, with the musical ideas of Petra Wajsar, create an atmosphere, and significantly support the dynamism of Vojta' s expression.

The performance genre moves between „everyday drama" and real life horror, tinged with elements of comedy. As was mentioned at the start, Vojta worked with James Donlon, who has worked for over thirty years in American mime, clowning and movement theatre, on the concept of this piece. As far as Vojta' s method is concerned, the performance Albert is Scared, remains in the same vein as his previous Bliss (debut in 2002), in which he similarly, deeply explored the inner world of a fearful and uncertain man.


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Martina Musilová
entertainment / theatre
5. 11. 07, review

Albert se bojí / Albert´s Fear

Mime artist  and clown Vojta Švejda shone in 2002 in his stage cartoon Bliss. The pantomime Albert is Scared is a return to this genre. In cooperation with the American director, clown and mime artist James Donlon, he has created a performance in Alfred ve dvoře / Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre, which relates to the best tradition of modern Czech pantomime.

The title of the performance, Albert is Scared, is determined by the main topic of the play. As Vojta Švejda reminds us in the programme notes about the performance, together with the director Donlon, the creators attempt to look at fear from many angles. The angles are of course considerably narrowed down. They concentrate on the fear of a little lad Albert, and his experiences in his small, ordinary, child' s world. It allows Švejda to bring the audience into the most banal situations occurring during the boy' s day. From getting up in the morning, his journey to the cellar for potatoes, his journey to school, meeting with a bigger, tough schoolmate, who steals Albert' s chewing gum, to sitting on the school bench and peeking at an attractive girl in his class. No matter how banal Albert' s stories are, there is nothing banal about the way Švejda' s character experiences them. Albert is a daydreamer, and he falls into dreaming of manly strength and perfection with every microsituation which his day brings. Right at the start, with Albert getting up in the morning and receiving his mother' s instructions, the reading of adventure literature fills the scenes, and Albert is gripped by its fantasies. For the dreaming Albert and the mime artist Vojta Švejda, these are opportunities to devote themselves to playing sailors and pirates. The whole performance unfolds in these polarities of collisions with the real world, which Albert fears, and being gripped by his inner world of manly play at adventure and chivalry, cheating card players, cowboys or gunslingers. A reversal takes place in Albert' s life when he becomes ill and has to remain in hospital for a short stay. This time alone and helpless, he dreams are feverish and terrifying.

Švejda performs the stories of his boy character (or his own boyhood?) with lively tempo. His supports are the excellent musicians Petr Wajsar, Jiří Mráz and Martin Zpěvák, who complete the play with sound, give it rhythm while at the same time creating the atmosphere of the microsituations. In the performance, Švejda does not only play the role of the character Albert, but also of all the characters whom the little lad meets on his everyday journeys. Švejda does not hestitate to combine clowning mime with speech, when he needs to evoke situations verbally. However, he does not stop at words. The play is also accompanied by childlike or familiar sounds, for example from characters from comics and animated films.

Švejda' s brilliant play is anchored in the archetypal additional distinction between the small and the big. Between the fears of the distraught boy on the one hand, and the hot shot boy who pretends he is afraid of nothing on the other, mime opens space, in which every member of the audience finds a piece of his or her childhood.  

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 San Francisco  Theater blog - Henry Higgens

"Albert's Fear": Highest reccomendation - Exceptional performance!

   Perhaps the best part of being a theater reviewer is that you get offers to see productions you'd probably never dream of attending otherwise. "Albert's Fear," starring the fabulous Czech physical comic Vojta Svejda, is one of these joyous surprises. One of four shows that make up the International Czech Theater Festival that is bouncing into the Marsh on a pogo stick and bouncing out just about that quickly, "Albert's Fear" makes us realize what a pity it is that more people won't get to see these quirky and powerful hour-long pieces.

   Poor Albert. He sleeps peacefully in his blanket until his Mom calls him to wake up for school. He is then tormented by everyone and everything -- his toothbrush, his breakfast, the bullies on the school bus, his teacher, his beautiful classmate Eva, and, most of all, his demonic dreams. Svedja performs in Almost Mime -- which is to say he doesn't really talk, except to utter a few words now and then. Mostly, he mutters, squeals, squeaks, gasps and invents sounds for everything taking place around him. Accompanying him are two excellent musicians, Martin Zpevak (upright bass) and Jiri Mraz (clarinet, piccolo, others), who also invent sounds to add to the sound pastiche illustrating Albert's many dilemmas.

   It all ends well: fears conquered, bullies vanquished, love interest kindled. Our greatest disappointment is that as we write this review, there is only one more presentation of "Albert's Fear." The International Czech Theater Festival will be gone for good by this coming Wednesday. Hopefully next year we'll get to see more shows and for longer runs.


 Taneční Zóna  - Dance Zone, Marketa Faustova - 03.2008  

Albert at Alfred or  "Fear is Only a Game".

If we had to choose the face of  Alfréd ve dvoře/Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre, we would propably all look to the boyish  face of Vojta Švejda. The review of his work wich was organized in early February at Alfred showed the exeptionality of this performer. The several-day long marathon of Švejdas´s work was characteristically entitled Dreams and Reality. Dreams and reality are indeed the north and south poles of Švejdas works. His new character, the young Albert, tiptoes among these too, in the new mimed play Albert´s fear.                                

When the floor creaks, Albert trembles with fear that a night brigant will attack him again - a terrifying, child´s fantasy. A child´s fear of the dark in the  corners of the house´s cellar, of a bullying, older schoolmate who always steals his chewing gume and fear of fear itself attack him from all sides like a swarm of bees. Albert dreams daily of ridding himself of the once and for all, so they will finally stop meancing him whenever they feel like it. 

 Švejda returns to his succesful performance of 2002, Bliss with production, wich was made in collaboration with American mime artist James Donlon. It is again a one-man-show, although, thanks to Švejda´s agility, plenty of characters chase each  other around the stage. The whole production is based on the extraordinary ability of this reviver of Czech mime. His  imaginary, non-verbal culinary skills sometimes have a flavour verging on slapstick humor, and it is fine-tuned with music above all sounds wich illustrate the mimicry, produced by the musicians Martin Zpěvák and Jiři Mráz  live on stage. 

 Yet the more aafraid Albert is, the more he wants to be a hero, a tough guy who in fact is the onr to threaten others. So he is drawn into fanciful wanderings, wich  break the performance down into smaller studies: during his Czech class, he dreams of being a cowboy, for example, and while secretly reading adventure stories undr the bedcovers. Yet he is always racking his brains, how to become a courageous hero: how to be rid of fear.

Those of you who have not seen Albert´s fear, may have the impression that its subject matter is sufficient at best for average children´s show. However, this would be the case Vojta Švejda was not the father of the piece. Although he may look like just an ordinary boy, he is in fact a master of fantasy. Like a magician pulling doves from a hat, Švejda creates new worlds, stories and characters. He understands perfectly the labyrinth of human fantasy, works with precision of a surgeon, and with the help of his imaginings and his rich craftsmanship, he fools us easily...As though our illusions become reality at a wave of his magic wand. 

 Švejda constructed Albert himself on the basic of both  personality and  physical traits. The exterior and interior character descriptions interact perfectly. Head dispassionately withdrawn between his shoulders, bespeaking a  youngster´s anxiety, the expression in the eyes on the watch for possible dangers, the body shriking and  contracting in different ways, whenever fear attacks him. Even when at one point Švejda plays Albert with only two fingers while the rest of his body is playing a giant simultaneously, he manages without trouble to act as two  characters, and evoke  convincing  communication between them. In the history of non-verbal theatre, there is a tendencyfor the standardization of type and concrete character to appear. Švejda´s lovable. little, frightened lad, who raises smiles on the faces of adults and children alike, is such a courefully constructed little character, that he could easily live on, either in another story of Švejda´s, or independent of his creation, book or comic. To Švejda, I take off my hat.

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Svět a Divadlo  magazine (SaD)  - Roman Sikora                                                            03.2008 .

 Small Inventory 2008 - Albert´s Fear.

 We were able to travel to a   childhood world with Vojta Švejda´s performance Albert´s Fear .  Švejda traditionaly cooperates with Alfred ve dvoře/Alfred in Courtyard Theatre. The fear of young Albert in Švejda´s mime performance, accompanied by the occasional word or sound, significantly complicates his life. He suffers from the same anxieties that we propably all remember from the childhood: the terrifying trip to the dark cellar for potatoes,fear of stromger peer, but also fear that he will betray himself to his enchantingly pretty, female classmate etc... The reading of adventure books, westerns and science fiction help Albert to overcome his weaknes. From these too, emerge the heroes who eventually enable him to overcome his fears. Švejda manages with just a few props on an empty stage, and he builds his performance  on precise, expresive gestueres  and simple pointers. Sometime he embodies other characters,mostly heroes from novels. Some figures  from real life he indcates only by his focus, a  shake of  the head, receiving of slaps, for example. The adolescent annoying him is turned into the image of  his garrulous mouth, by the movement of his hand  over his head. The performance about the  chronic vigilance of Albert, who at the outset is almost afraid to step out of his house, and by the end has become a brave lad, capable of dealing with the world around him by himself, is accompained by live music by a clarinetist and double bass player, who also variety of percussion instruments.At the close of the performance, Švejda grabs ukulele, positions himself in centre stage,along with the other musicians, and hits the audience with a short, arresting country song, celebrating the decisive happy ending of all Albert´s troubles.( As the festival, among others, has shown, making a good and ending, is for many "new" theatre directors an unsurmountable problem. Hence here is another point particularly in Vojta Švejda´s and his co-director´s, American James Donlon´s, favour.

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Edinburgh festival: Polaris  × × × ×

The Zoo, Pleasance, Edinburgh

The absence of the Aurora Nova programme from this year's Fringe has been a sad loss to fans of international visual and physical theatre. But into the breach step Czech company Adriatik with a heartbreaking, elemental show about polar explorers adrift in the wilderness.
Two frostbitten, frock-coated men sit twitching with cold somewhere in the Antarctic circle. In a series of wordless tableaux, they painstakingly advance through a bewilderment of snow, metamorphosing into shuffling penguins, walruses hauling themselves across the ground and barking, bears rearing up, and birds swooping through velvety darkness.
So careful is this production's inspection of the desolate natural environment that it is almost like a wildlife documentary. The men listen to the glaciers moan and gurgle, and their days begin to bleed into each other. Falling asleep curled up together, they start to dream of animals doing the tango.
Part of the play's cleverness lies in the way it takes us both outside and inside the explorers' heads: we are left with a crazed inkling of what drives them, while one stop-motion sequence gives us the men's romantic hallucinations about their return home: a smoking pipe becomes the funnel of a boat, and they strike poses for the cameras and cheering crowds.
Dedicated to a Czech explorer with the heroic handle Captain Arctic Bismarck, Polaris respects the courage of such figures from a bygone age of pioneering expeditions, while harbouring a sneaking suspicion about the absurdity of their endeavours. The staging makes great use of simple sound effects - the wind, for instance, is evoked by a scratched record - and the performers have a stupendous, yet subtle virtuosity.
Adriatik have fashioned a show that is both a collection of scattered miracles and a startling meditation on nature

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The List (Issue 610)
14 August 2008
Written by: Gareth Vile
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Poignant Czech mime  - Polaris  × × × ×

This drama of two men lost in the Antarctic is in danger of giving mime a good name. Using very few props, a howling soundtrack and jumping between human and animal, Vojta Svejda and Jan Benes-McGadie relate their impressionistic story with winning humour and pathos.
A series of thematic sketches, Polaris gradually becomes more tragic, as the two heroes freeze to death. Conjuring a lonely wilderness through discreet lighting and a minimal set, their interludes as animals expand the sense of danger and wonder. Their versatile and expressive characterisations demonstrate the potential of mime as a serious dramatic genre, combining a lightness of touch with high seriousness.
Willing to play for laughs, Czech company, Adriatic also brings out the nobility of their adventurers, making their slow failure painfully poignant. The episodic structure allows them to escape the heaviness of a straight plot, weaving a moving meditation on old fashioned heroism.

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Jana Návratová - Reflex


„With their imagination, playfulness and stage design in retro style, both bearded guys showded a good grasp of the chilly poetry of the north, imitated ice animals with their motion and acoustics, and instilled a feeling of nostalgia for everything washed away a time".

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Theatre Bristol

Mayfest Reviews: Bristol Old Vic Studio - 5th-7th May 2009

Written by - Kieron Kirkland                                                             

Polaris     × × × × 

The two performens Jan Beneš and Vojta Švejda craft the landscape and its inhabitants through strong physical theatre skills. Taking the role of an animal can be a difficult bussines, but the technicaly mastery, humour, and sheer sincerity of the performers carve out images and a narrative that make for enchanting storytelling. The Antarctic characters are supported by a stark but powerful lighting design and sound track.

A persistent theme of the piece is the maddeningly fragile and enduring hope of survival in such desolate conditions, but this is balanced with the day- to- day life of creatures fo who the environment is normal part of life. There are moments when you almost feel you are in a wildlife documentary, cutting between a struggling camera crew batteredby the elements, to the uhurried world of a baby penguin absent- mindedly pecking for food. This gives the piece a shifting pace and dynamic that  keeps your attention through out.

If you don´t go to theatre very often, see this, as it will show exactly how good storytelling can be. If you do go to the theatre often, go and see this remind yourself than you don´t need word to tell a touching story.


Prague-based Adriatic Presents Brings New Play to Lit Moon Festival.  -  By Charles Donelan

Polaris: Top-Notch Physical Theater

    From their first entrance, when Jan Benes-McGadie and Vojta Svejda come onstage straining to pull an invisible sled and letting off small puffs of talcum powder condensation, the tremendous attention to detail and imagination that has gone into Polaris is apparent. A two-man show from the Adriatic Presents theater of Prague, Polaris is a nearly wordless hour-long physical drama that draws the audience into a vivid and seamless dream of polar exploration. The two performers are virtuosi of what dancers call "traveling" - i.e., finding different, distinctive, and significant ways to cross the stage. The powder they shed as stage-vapor eventually coats the floor, the better for Benes-McGadie and Svejda to slide, waddle, skip, slither, and stalk through the "snowy" space. In several scenes simple traveling motifs conjure entire settings, as when the pair side-stepped synchronously to indicate riding together on a train, or when they slide and slither on palms and elbows dragging bent knees behind them and bellowing like sea lions.In Polaris, it seems as though every aspect of arctic life is touched upon, and often in alternating, complementary perspectives, as when the opening segment involving two human explorers huddling in a shelter is inter-cut with deft shots of the explorer's huskies shivering outside. From a standpoint of sheer technique, this is some of the most impressive acting you will see anywhere. For instance, Benes-McGadie and Svedja move so quickly and quietly during the blackouts that at times it's hard to accept that they could have changed position so drastically in such a short amount of time without anyone noticing. Although the animal sequences are in some ways the most memorable, they are by no means the most significant of the show. Through deft characterization and fascinating lighting and performance techniques designed to mimic other media - such as early film - Polaris embeds its explorers amid a world of poignant reminders of past ambition and archaic notions of fame and glory.