Cast and crew of plays 'Academy for Women' and 'Mum what did you want?', 229 Venue, London (2018)
'Mum what did you want?' happy actors after the show in Prague (Nov 2019)
Actors from the play 'Anna's Story', London (2009)
Cast and crew of plays 'Academy for Women' and 'Mum what did you want?', 229 Venue, London (2018)
The number of Slovaks living in the United Kingdom in 2017 was estimated at 150,000. It is not a wonder that with such a number, it is possible to find a theatre group among the cultural associations of compatriots. The Slovak Theatre in London has been formed since 2009 alongside associations such as folklore ensembles Morena (2001), Carpathians (2003), children's folklore ensemble Sovička (2014), and educational company Slovak Weekend School (2007). Under the dramaturgical and directing course of Juliana Sersenová, Slovak amateur actors rehearsed and performed during the first five years on the premises of the Slovak Catholic Mission in London, a foreign parish operating independently since 2007.
From its beginnings to the present, the theatre has retained certain specific features - it creates its own, author-prepared scripts, continues to involve compatriots, regardless of their age or background, and operates primarily on a volunteer basis. Similarly, it performs certain key functions from the outset; it enables compatriots in a foreign environment to activate themselves artistically quickly and effectively, it helps actors and spectators to strengthen their national-cultural identity, build inspiration for friendship and eases the process of safe settling in a new country.
Between 2008 and 2023, the Slovak Theatre in London prepared twelve performances of various durations and performed sixty-seven reruns in thirty different venues in six countries. In 2023 for the first time expanded its international audience at two major festivals Edinburgh Fringe and Camden Fringe. According to the content, two periods of theatre can be identified: in the period from April 2009 to June 2014, the theatre’s work focused on religious and historical themes (except for Anna’s Story), consolidating the audience base in the Slovak Catholic Mission. The new era of STL began with the performance Migrants' Rhapsody which has been rehearsed since the fall of 2014 outside the permission of the Slovak Catholic Mission, and the performances have taken place in completely new locations. Thanks to the deliberately chosen general topic from the present, the play was performed to a wide range of Slovak and foreign audiences and met with success.
Since 2015, the existence of the theatre has become more widely known to the Slovaks living in the UK, and Slovak theatre performances have also enjoyed it in the circle of theatre. After various forms of naming the theatre group, the name Migrant Rhapsody began to use the name of the Slovak Community Theatre in London, finally shortened to The Slovak Theatre in London in the autumn of 2016, in connection with the preparation of the play Academy for Women.
Between 2018 and 2019, the theatre rehearsed and toured with its show Mum what did you want? In this play, the theatre returned to the theme of liquid migration but this time it looked at the perspectives and experiences of the Slovak mothers whose children settled in the UK. Yet another relatable topic left our audience touched and keen to support our future work.
In 2020, theatre makers at STL attempted to rehearse a new author-written play which was shortly disrupted by what became the most significant event of the past decades – the pandemic. The pandemic stopped the world and disabled any collaborative artistic creation. On the contrary, it has created a significant stimulus for artistic reflection STL included. In 2022, we reunited to welcome a new post-pandemic theatre-making era.
In 2022/23 we created and performed 29 shows of a devised production Extreme [The New Norm] inspired by the exact experience that paused their creative work for nearly three years. Pandemic rules brought us contrasting experiences. We couldn’t rely on what would happen in the next hour, let alone in the next month. We find ourselves living beyond the norm. Extremes became the norm. The show reflects on the biggest event of our century, which globally influenced the life of every individual. In a colourful collage of scenes and characters, the play shows the contrasting situations brought by the pandemic, many times based on true events. Through collaborative devising, by using physical movements, music and songs, the artists explore the patterns of behaviour of society and individuals in a time of catastrophe. While this stage of our lives might already seem distant, their artistic treatment emphasizes the experience of crisis rather than the event itself, as it desires to serve as a mirror to challenge opinions and call to new perspectives. Ultimately, the show, filled with both seriousness and humour, offers a collective therapy through art.
The characteristics that made STL from the start:
Compatriotic - our company consists mainly of Slovaks, with some Czech members.
Young - we are students, current and recently graduated - at times students for life, young at heart.
Devised - we specialise in originally devised work, crafted by ourselves.
Modern - we reflect current themes and issues.
Universally Human - we transform our experiences so they can reach any kind of audience.
From 2023, we are also a proud member of the Central and Eastern European Creative Network (CEE Network) in the UK, where we share our creativity with fellow artists from Europe.
CHRONOLOGY OF PLAYS
Shabbat Like We Didn't Expect
The postmodern passion play brought the suffocating atmosphere of White Saturday closer. Seven actors and actresses, representing Jesus' friends, locked in one room one after another, washed out their disappointment and the pain that the Teacher, in whom they placed all hope, is dead. Their memories led them retrospectively to Calvary, and the Sabbath meeting ended with a bitter sigh, "We did not expect such a Shabbath."
The real story of a young teacher from Moravia, who returns home from London with a broken heart after the break-up, was presented by three actors. The dramatic clash of values recorded a home environment in which the protagonist again found peace of mind.
A traditional Christmas game, accompanied by the uplifting singing of angels, with nine actors. The story of the Bethlehem couple was enriched by two other Jewish couples with their personal troubles, which pleasantly surprised the light of Christmas night.
Next Stop: Holy Spirit
The plot followed the "Shabbat", experimenting with connecting religious substance with everyday city life. The biblical events of the resurrection were situated in the setting of the London Underground. Mary Magdalene sang like a busker in the subway, the disciples travelled to Emmaus on the District line, and the newspaper promptly reported a conspiracy that Jesus' body had been stolen. With the help of several chairs and a temple setting, this game brought distant events into an atmosphere familiar to any Londoner. Ten actors took part in the game.
Shabbat Like We Never Expected
The play repeated was a follow up on 2009 (Shabbat, as we did not expect), with added songs, multi-voice and movement character “Pain”. Seven actors faced the challenge of playing in English and successfully presented the work of Slovak youth to five English parishes in London.
Light of the World
A series of Christmas sketches with a clown trying to catch a point of light and an adult Jesus remembering his child. Ten actors took part in it and the audience was rewarded with pre-Christmas cabbage.
Martyrs of Slovakia I
A spectacular and narrative performance about the mission of St. Cyril and Methodius, in which all the figures of early medieval Slovak history came to life. The first part ended with the death of Constantine Cyril in Rome. Drawing on the latest historical studies, the game aims to present the motivations of the individual figures of national history and presents their human side. Eleven actors played a total of thirty characters. The spectators became Roman citizens and the church became a medieval temple. In the midst of a foreign world, the play united actors and spectators alike in the excitement of what our ancestors achieved in the ninth century.
Martyrs of the Word I + II
The performance was supplemented by the second part, which revealed to the spectator what was happening in Great Moravia in the period after Constantine's death. The dramatic fate of the Great Method ended and the fall of Moravia foreshadowed an impressive funeral procession.
A dynamic performance inspired by our own lives by using the devised style of theatre captured the joys, but especially of the unspoken afflictions of Slovak migrants. The motivations for their arrival in Britain, their English routine and the decision-making about the future were told through songs, movement scenes and small plots, ending with an allegorical wedding of migrants and Miss Great Britain. Nine and finally six actors played in Slovak and English. The play was in formation for two years to its final full in April 2016.
Academy for Women
The performance on the exploitation of the female body for the sex industry originated as a defence of a fragile man amid today's world, which obscures the exploitation of an impressive vocabulary and presents the negative consequences of the sex industry as a modern success. A probe into the lives of young prostitutes, arousing compassion and human interest in convicted members of society. Four actors played four characters in a more traditional style of theatre storytelling.
Mum, What Did You Want?
The performance thematically returns to migration, but unlike the Migrant Rhapsody, it presents the views and opinions of those who remained in Slovakia - specifically mothers who, after several years of separation from their children, became grandmothers forced to fly after their grandchildren. Five actors talk about how their lives have changed, about emotional ebbs and outflows, about generational paradoxes multiplied by distance, in a documentary performance, enriched with songs and dances.
Extreme [The New Norm]
Contrasting pandemic situations portrayed in a colourful collage of scenes and characters, this is one of a kind experience to witness. Through collaborative devising, the artists explore the patterns of behaviour of society and individuals in a time of catastrophe. While this stage of our lives might already seem distant, their artistic treatment emphasizes the experience of crisis rather than the event itself, as it desires to serve as a mirror challenging the opinions and calling to new perspectives. Ultimately, the show, filled with both seriousness and humour, offers a collective therapy through art.