Marek Turošík (Czech Republic)

Continuo now

CONTINUO is unique Czech theatre company. It was created in 1992 by Helena and Pavel Štourač after their graduating from scenography at Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). Ever since, Pavel Štourač has been the artistic director of the company and director of all performances.
There are few reason why Continuo in is Czech cultural condition unique. Continuo is international, independent anthropological theatre community theatre based in old farm estate named Plum Yard in small Czech village Malovice in South Czech region. Members of the theatre live and work in old farm buildings and sleep in caravans, intentionally following the legacy of traditional Czech puppeteers, traveling artists and modern theatre groups like Odin Teatret. It is one of the first Czech independent theatre companies still lasting and fighting for the working place its member desire.
Continuo likes to learn. Firstly, it started as a puppet theatre company, then moved to street and new circus productions, then to physical and dance projects. After years Continuo rejected the stylish purity and turned into composed and mixed genres, so today we can see them presenting puppet, dance, music and visual performance The Eight Day. However, Continuo goes far beyond simple mixing the styles, but it crates the organic form where all genres can coexists and support each other with the synergic dialogue.
Continuo is one of very few Czech anthropological theatre, studying and using tools and phenomenons like dreams, mythology, human physicality, folklore, space and legacy of personalities like Jung, Grotowski, Barba (born in 1936 Italian theater director, playwright, theater theorist-ed.), Osterwa and Kantor in the professional, still creative. Although having the head - director, its performances demand full creativity from actors, musicians and scenographers, as well. They believe common artistic result is richer than realizing one man’s ideas. Their performances are poetic but rough, professional but folk, finished but open and living.
            Moreover, this theatre group annually organizes International summer project consisting of workshops and building original performance and program Refuge - laboratory which seeks the place for theatre sanctuary without necessity present the result on the stage while not naturally ready.
 
As I mentioned, significant  area of Continuo’s interest are open space productions - site specific projects in old South Czech villages, moving train, ruined grange, on lake banks, etc., but street performances not related to the specific place, as well. It is one of few Czech professional theatres continually dealing with street performances again and again.
            From the past street performances done by Continuo theatre let us just name three.
VAKOKODESKA was made to be a walking performance in the streets of towns centres instead of different open space performances by theatre that were made to be static - on squares and meadows.
Vakokodeska was a theatre march of strange, odd and creepy figures through the town (imagine Prague or Ljubljana) on ordinary day. Figures reminded the audience of big birds - actors using the stilts dressed in costumes made exclusively only of paper only took inspiration from the various bird species and Japanese fine art to create them together with theatre set designers.
 
While marching through the town separately, actors played with audience, sang and played acoustic music. Once the director gave the signal by whistling, creatures moved to another part of the town square and started another part of the performance, gathered or walked away.
 
FINIS TERRAE was night open air performance based on myth of travel to the place where world ends. It told several stories at once, used puppet, visual, voice and dance actions to create composed and rich theatre form unique to Continuo.
Artistic inspiration came mainly from commedia dell’arte tradition, historical document of journey of medieval Czech lords to the foreign countries and psychological differences of ways of men and women, ways that are visible and ways invisible.
 
NOW is current street and open air night performance by Continuo created in 2012.
Surprisingly, Continuo is - for me for the first time - walking on the fragile edge between political and poetic artistic expression. Under word political I do not mean the interest in politicians or governments, but contrary, in the public opinion, acceptation and perception. Publicity is the phenomenon artists of Continuo play with. What does influence the opinion of the mass now? What creates the medial picture of the world and what is it like now?
When the performance starts, we see circle cut off the square by lights. Circle consists of piano, few plastic chairs, carpet and newspapers all around on the ground. Audience standing around suffers from imminent resemblance to the cafe or cabaret in the middle of the town square.
While actors performing, we are witnessing several continuous poetic, funny and passionate situations that create the backbone of the performance, each one differs from the others. Every of actors presents diverse character that is main in his continuous situation and supporting role in stories of others - then they resemble main character’s material or props. We see crying in panic and fear, we see scientific speech defining the phenomenon of love, seducing passion for football championship, the argue about the meaning of theatre and its value and the most popular headline of 2012 - the end of the world. All situations are connected to the newspaper prop or headlines.
NOW is composed by 4 Czech, 1 Slovak and 1 Italian actors’ physical and voice partitures and unconventional amount of verbal text - regarding the standards of Continuo, in various available languages. Waves of words evokes the phenomenon of newspapers, as well.
Music is done by singing and by playing the piano by Italian performer. Moreover, the show contains dance, physical action and visual theatre manifestations. It is obvious, that it came to life using the method of led improvisation on selected topic - devised theatre, director’s task was to organize the assorted material of actors.
What is Continuo excellent at, is preserved in this show and expanded into form of talking, functional symbol - roughness, intentional unfinished, eloquence of measured simplicity and thrilling dream composition and associativeness far away from realistic causality.
 
When I saw the NOW performance for the first time myself, it was in Prague on a unpleasantly cold summer night on the island in the middle of Vltava river. It was during the big festival and everywhere around me were masses of loud people, all was smelling of beer. It was like I suddenly appeared in modern Middle Ages and I realized that folk space, smell, dirt and cold night is the best place I can see Continuo’s performance. Everything around me was real, not played or pretended as it is in theatre buildings.
Street theatre production as action of public, living and active human being, not the one who is closed behind the door of his house or flat but in the living street. Active towards himself and to the rest of the society, as well. Privacy is discovery of 19th century that almost consumed our culture in 20th century. Continuo’s NOW is tool how to break closed minds and conformity of Middle European citizens - consumers.
The performance NOW could be briefly described as a sketch of several topic subordinated to the main topic - topic of mass in human being and public manifestation of nowadays people. Newspaper of the human world in 2012. It speaks about the simple and  at the same time complicated archetypal relationship of Myself and World around.
 
Author is PhD. student of theatre directing, dramaturgy and anthropology at Academy of performing Arts in Prague (CZ) and big fan of Continuo theatre.
partnerzy ckis Visegrad Fund art prometheus Nyirbatorert Alapitvany Thalia Teatro Radio Centrum Kalisz
Gateway to La Strada. 2015 CKiS. Wszelkie prawa zastrzeżone.