The new family comedy Jak jsem se ztratil aneb Malá vánoční povídka (How I Got Lost or a Little Christmas Story) bets on more than just a music flashback to the sweet early 1960s. The Brno National Theatre has been playing it since its weekend premiere. A seven-member band directly on stage forms the audio and narrative backdrop to the sentimental journey back in time. Older folks will emotionally reflect on the sweet "sixties", while those younger will discover this decade. And that is what the new production of director Martin Františák bets on.
And it is the supporting idea for the actual shape of the production which has been primarily a playfully sounding, uncomplicated theatrical revue for several generations. There was no similar family-friendly title on the big stage of Mahen Theatre. Its dramaturgy and marketing connection to Christmas time is obvious. Actually, for the record, it cannot be kept a secret that this prosaic artwork of Ludvík Aškenazy was transformed into the stage form by director Jan Borna already in 2000 in the Divadlo v Dlouhé Theatre in Prague. And there, they have been playing it for sixteen years, it has had over 440 reprises and is always sold out. It is a desired and durable product lusted after by theatre directors.
However, this will also be the result in Brno. The love of Czech people for retro cultural flashbacks can be seen throughout the last quarter century. After all, the successful musical comedy Šakalí léta (Big Beat), in which the actors sang, danced and played about freedom, independence, the red star and rock'n'roll, was also based on this concept immediately after the revolution. And Františák's production made this hit film and the musical genre its flagship. Let's think back to how the calm small-town and narrow-minded life was stirred up by young hooligan Baby, who infatuated everyone around with his eccentric clothes, guitar and passion for wild music. And all seven members of the Vkus band, who are the live musical accompaniment of the 90-minute evening and come on stage directly from the auditorium, have the black crazy hair with sideburns, glittery jackets and the overall rock'n'roll look.
In contrast to Pavel from Prague, one Christmas Day, the dad loses track of his 5-year-old Jakub in Brno. The theatrical result is a musical performance, in which the little boy meets a man with a carp, a shy girl, the last lamplighter, a coachman and the postman Klement with his horse Karlička at Christmas in Brno (Maltézské náměstí is not cited). Františák staged the story in counterpoint to fragile, dream-like scenes and wild rock music. It is not extremely complicated entertainment. Grown-ups should be tempted mainly by the ever-present music. For example, some of the songs played include the hit song Půlnoční by Neckář, the wittily used hit Roň slzy and the famous Marnivá sestřenice by Jiří Suchý, which was set by Ashkenazy, when Jakub is questioned by the Police. Add songs by Ivan Hlas from the above film, the carol Půjdem spolu do Betléma, the armorial Christmas spiritual song Silent Night and four new hits. Despite the genre diversity of the musical material, everything is held together by the story of a little lost boy. The Vkus band is a random, but well-coordinated group that does not lack the drive of rock showmen. I could also imagine an even louder sound that would get the audience even more pumping. Fortunately, the singing in the songs goes smoothly as used to be the case in the ensemble.
The small audience from preschool age will probably be more intrigued by the theatricality of the whole performance, also playing with some features of puppet theatre, than the music. Františák stages everything as theatre in the theatre. He did not resist the temptation to also display three very little kids on the stage. On the other hand, he resisted the temptations to improve this retro theatre with modern technologies, to which children may be quite possibly unresponsive these days. Life-sized puppets, a lamplighter on stilts, a grasshopper as if from a carnival parade or Andersen's dreamy Little Match Girl do more good than spectacular video effects or other technical tricks.
The main role of the young boy is played by an adult actor and father of three Miroslav Černý. A real 5-year-old boy goes on stage with him, it is not about impersonating a child resembling hypocrisy and acting falsehood, to which children are most sensitive. The resulting musical performance of Františák could use more detailed group scenes, which sometimes give the impression of an unorganised mess. The production benefits from an honest rock'n'roll sound and sentimental flashbacks as also represented by the stage of Marek Cpin with a black-and-white view of the city and an ad for Malcao. The production is a working and successful example of playful musical theatre, the intelligent spontaneity of which transfers onto the little ones from the beginning and communicates with them.