Expat Daedalus

The Miloco theater group stages a one-night-only production.

The Labyrinth of the World

January 16th at 7.30 pm

Divadlo komedie, Jungmannova 1 in P1

Tel. 22 422 27 34

Daniel Brown used to wince when he heard someone loose the phrase “Expat Theater.”
It’s not as if he’s averse to the association with the handful of English-language
groups Prague has sprouted in the past decade – the shivers come because of
the limitations the label itself applies.

“Various groups around the world have capably, even extraordinarily, filled
the theater niche in the cultural lives of expats,” the director explains. But
few if any of these companies have successfully managed to bring their performances
to the more critical eyes of the world at large.

Since taking the helm of the directionless Misery Loves Company from long-departed
founders, Brown and the talented core ensemble – an international crew including
Bosnian, Czech, Slovak, Canadian and American performers – have tried to give
Prague just that by staging performances that appeal to natives and foreigners
alike. Miloco, the result of the restructuring, is Prague’s first global theater
company with foreign roots. Their first devised work, Encyclopedia of the
, has garnered equal shares of praise and curiosity from audiences and
critics around the world since its 2001 premier, making them unique among Prague’s
foreign theater groups.

One of their greatest challenges has been gaining the acceptance of the entrenched
Czech theater society, (which is steeped in centuries of tradition), without
alienating the foreign population that birthed the company.

It hasn’t been easy. The relative obscurity of Czech playwrights and the limited
reach of the language provide the Czech stage with temerity when it comes to
opening up to newcomers. Rents for foreign groups are unusually high in most
theaters and local funding is hard to come by as the more confident Czech companies
offer their multi-national counterparts serious competition, thus tightening
budgets for community support and promotion.

Miloco has managed to make significant headway by seeking out new, local talent
while bringing avant-garde production methods to bear on highly conceptual,
interpretive adaptations. Short on narrative dialog, Miloco’s devised works
employ masks, clowning, live music, puppets and ingeniously simple props to
create elaborate and often confusing worlds where the narrative can be almost
entirely sublimated into emotion and audience interpretation.

The Labyrinth of the World premieres January 16th. Based on the novel
of the same name by Jan Amos Komen-sk'' – an author more known for his philosophical
works than his fiction – Labyrinth is the second installation of Brown’s
five-year plan for the company, which he calls the Labyrinth project. Like the
first installation, Labyrinth integrates several languages, including
Czech and English. Unlike Encyclopedia, however, this is a comic production
and follows a more accessible narrative thread.

According to Brown, The Labyrinth of the World is “a story we all know.”
It is an Everyman tale, taking as its protagonist a dizzily naive man searching
for his place in the world. Miloco abridges Komensky’s tale, omitting certain
of the pilgrim’s more repetitive experiences, updating and localizing some of
the more pertinent social critiques in the process. As per 17th century custom
to whip the eyes of metaphors, the pilgrim is guided by Delusion and Impudence.

“Despite its distinctly comedic elements, [Labyrinth] addresses questions
relating to our common systems of morality and sense of belonging which remain
quite relevant, especially in the current atmosphere,” says Brown of the allegory,
which can be aptly applied to the company itself.

Jiří Pliestik, a Czech sculptor fa-mous for designing the Havel award and the
new memorial to the victims of collectivization (still in early construction
phases in Holeovice), designed the stage for the production. A minimalist set
of ladders and latticework balances functionality with descriptive qualities
sufficient to carry the ensemble through six distinct settings without interfering
with the action.

The play will be hosted at the newly re-opened Divadlo Komedie, which also hosted
much of the Canadian Season festival. This production is currently booked for
a single performance on the 16th, so ticket reservations are recommended.


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