Kafka Re-Telling to Be Staged In Abandoned Prague Cinema

The story behind the on-going restoration of the legendary movie theater plus why Kafka matters now more than ever

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 07.02.2017 11:23:32 (updated on 07.02.2017) Reading time: 2 minutes

A new international theater production, inspired by Franz Kafka’s famous novel The Trial and Russia’s current reality, is opening in Prague later this month. 

Director Maxim Didenko (2016 “Made in Russia” award winner for best theater director), a St. Petersburg native, will present a stage version of the 1925 story of a man arrested and prosecuted by an inaccessible authority, for the re-opening of Kino 64 U Hradeb on Mostecká Street in Malá Strana, a post-war theatre that is currently a work-in-progress multi-functional space.

The play is inspired by the speeches of Soviet prisoners indicted during Stalinism and Nazis sentenced during the Nuremberg trials. Didenko also drew inspiration from the authentic transcripts of current political prisoners, their correspondence and trial statements.

Kafka Re-Telling to Be Staged In Abandoned Prague Cinema

“Kafka’s absurd novels gradually become a picture of Russia’s everyday reality. The play therefore could be interpreted as a warning. The theme described by Kafka one hundred years ago is topical again and in a wider context. Examples can be [seen in] the unfair trials of Pussy Riot, the Navalny brothers, Michail Chodorkovskij and others,” says Didenko.

Six performers (a mix of talent from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Norway, and Russia) will combine a variety of genres – from clowning, opera, contemporary dance, circus, physical theatre – with elements of musical and documentary theatre.

Kino 64 U Hradeb was the first cinema built in Prague after the Second World War, at the time equipped with high-end panoramic projection and stereophonic sound.

Kafka Re-Telling to Be Staged In Abandoned Prague Cinema

The cinema was also unique in that it was built not as a single amphitheatre auditorium, but in the style of pre-war cinemas with the auditorium divided into a floor and a balcony.

Its most famous era came right after the opening in 1964 when it became a sought-after premiere cinema. The second half of the nineties saw a proliferation of multiplex cinemas coming to the country.

In 2002, the cinema closed despite highly publicized protests by preservationists and media; that same year the floods worsened the already badly damaged building.

Kafka Re-Telling to Be Staged In Abandoned Prague Cinema

While a civic group has been overseeing the restoration of the space, 64 U Hradeb is now open for special events only and at visitors’ own risk: before entering the building, audience members will be asked to sign a short release form – how Kafkaesque. 

The Trial premieres on February 27-28 at 8 p.m. Purchase tickets (350 CZK) here.

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