A Snow-Covered Contemporary Circus Comedy

Two students of the mime department of HAMU in Prague Eliška Brtnická and Jana Klimová took the inspiration of aerial and floor acrobatics and created a comedy graduation performance rich in themes and movement entitled Postav na čaj! (Make Tea!).

The story is simple, clearly comprehensible and entertaining. It takes place somewhere far north in an uninhabited location outside of our space and time. There are only two comical beings living in this God-forsaken place who take the form of women but behave more like a couple of bickering imps and who are spending a tough winter waiting for the spring to come inside their warm abode. The waiting is the main theme of the performance. Time seems to have slowed down almost to the point of almost entirely stopping and so the two protagonists have nothing better to do than escalate their bickering into a piece of slapstick.

The two woman clowns want to make tea. Each of them approaches it in a completely different way, however, they both need a lot of snow to melt into water in a pot on the stove. While waiting for the water to boil, they tease each other and do housework such as cleaning up and hanging the laundry to dry.

The concept (created by Klimová and Brtnická in cooperation with Vít Neznal) is based on the traditional clown-gag setup involving one dominant clown who is picking on his weaker counterpart. However, there is an obvious deeper friendship connecting the two main characters which surfaces especially in the situations when both protagonists are desperately trying to melt the snow and turn in into tea. Even simple, literally physical gags (such as butt kicking, tripping and trapping) come across as funny since they aren’t done just for their own sake, aren’t exaggerated and the two use them with deliberation and female elegance.Trapeze, silk and a snowball

Two women enter the darkened stage. The first (Jana Klimová) quickly swings onto the fixed trapeze, finds a comfortable position and falls into a slumber. The second woman (Eliška Brtnická) climbs up the snow-white silk, turns it into a cocoon for herself and pretends to fall asleep. The lights come on sharply to signalize the start of a day. The two women gradually wake up. The one on the trapeze is ahead. She puts on gloves and a woolen hat and elegantly jumps to the floor, landing with one foot inside a prepared rubber boot. With strongly stylized gestures showing fatigue and displeasure from the cold and the need to get up, she plods to a table (which the acrobats will use for partner acrobatics in the second part of the performance). Then, the woman on the silk wakes up and starts hatching from her cocoon. From the very beginning, she represents the opposite of her colleague’s character: she is dignified, alert and is always ready to start solving any and every problem.

The opening scene clearly differentiates the two characters and their interactions are based on the standard comic duo of opposite types. However, their shared clumsiness is more reminiscent of Pat and Mat rather than, e. g., Laurel and Hardy.

Fast sequences alternate with calm ones, jokes are balanced with serious parts and movement theater is complemented with expressive acrobatics. The comic atmosphere of the performance is only disrupted by a poetic interlude during which the protagonists simultaneously perform choreographies on the silk and the trapeze virtually dancing in the air with elegant, smooth motion. The strongest shared quality of all individual scenes is the ability of the performers to maintain mutual communication using mime and demanding acrobatic elements. Their use of props is also very inventive: white juggling balls represent snow balls which the acrobats manipulate with a pot cover and a metal ladle. The balls end up in a boiling pot on the stove. Then all that is left to do is wait for them to melt into water for the tea.

When the performance is over, a question is left hanging in the air. Something has been left unsaid in the freezing air of the far North. The show ends with waiting as it began and the circle is closed. Apparently, HAMU has produced circus talent with a great potential.

HAMU, Prague: Postav Na Čaj! (Make Tea!); Directed By: Eliška Brtnická and Jana Klimová; Artistic Supervisor: Vít Neznal; Costume Design: Marianna Stránská; Premiere: Feb. 20, 2010 at DISK, DAMU, Prague.

Veronika Štefanová for Divadelní Noviny 6/2010.