DEPARTURES OF TRAINS (ODJEZDY VLAKŮ)
The last performance of Michael Frayn’s play Chinamen
1 men, 1 woman
Petr Zelenka, a successful Czech movie director, has an advantage as a playwright: his texts are mostly results of a “social commission”. When asked to direct a play at the Astorka KORZO theatre in Bratislava, he decided on Michael Frayn’s Chinamen. The one-act play was not long enough for an all-evening entertainment, and so Zelenka’s fantasy went into overdrive (with Michael Frayn’s permission). He was apparently inspired by another Frayn play. The farce Noises Off! follows both a comedy performed onstage and the decline of the acting ensemble backstage during the performances.
The protagonists of Departures of Trains are an Actress and an Actor, performing Michael Frayn’s play Chinamen. They are ex-partners in real life, and – as it happens so often in life, total opposites with mutual attraction. The actress (played in Bratislava by Anna Šišková) is despite a fragile appearance a strong and rational human being who even in the mad acting profession would not lose the sense of reality. The actor (Vladimír Hajdu in Bratislava production) is one of Zelenka’s “mad” characters, fighting bad luck and a grotesque inability to fit into the “normal” state of affairs. This is manifesting itself specifically in his forgetfulness of almost absurd dimensions. This quality adversely affects his professional work and becomes a source of funny theatrical gags, but at the same time makes him into a clown even in his personal life, and an outcast running around between different jobs: theatre, dubbing and moonlighting work such as recording train departures information for a train station tannoy. Zelenka thus manages to present a parable about our restless money-making existence through well chosen details, in a way similar to Frayn’s original one-act play. The final coming together and parting of the pair of actors is made of the right dose of both sadness and hilarity.
Translated into English by Alžběta Šáchová.
Please note: The play is not available for staging in the English speaking countries.