April 2017

Philosophical Faculty of the University J. E. Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem

Spring 2017

‘Dement Lemach’ and concert in the Maisel synagogue

December 2016

PF 2017

"Colourful Thursday", in the Central Library in Prague, Mariánské náměstí.

The end of 2016

Třeboň

‘Devět bran’ - Trutnov

Koncert v Divadle v Dlouhé

September 2016

Hawdal concert in Wroclaw

Summer 2016

Františkovy Lázně

Jindřichův Hradec

Pilsen

June 2016

'Dément Lemach' by Jacob Gordin


Photo: Marianna Borecká (1-10); Mia Köhlerova (11-18)

Duben, květen, 2016

Olomouc



Ledeč

Spring, 2016

Concert in the Theatre at Dlouhá

Happy New Year 2015!

November 2015

Concert in the Theatre at Dlouhá


Photo: Jan Hecht (2, 6); Marianna Borecká (1, 3, 4, 5, 7)

October 2015

The conference: „Non-legal judicature in totalitarian state“

September 2015

'Jewish Culture days' Mikulov

Next Wave Festival


Photo: Andrea Malinová

Summer 2015

serial 'My little garden'

June 2015

At Budyho on Libeňský island



Spring 2015

Kladno

Františkovy Lázně

Synagogue in Pilsen


Photo: 3,4 - Author: Tomáš Rimpel

February 2015

Prague, Theatre in Dlouhá, 22.2.2015


Portrait in Broadcast weekly

Happy New Year 2015!

Autumn 2014

Festival in Banská Bystrica


Photo: 1, 2, 3 - Marianna Borecká; 4 - Leo Redlinger

Days of Jewich Culture in Český Těšín

Synagogue in Čkyně

Rok 2014

Judge A. K.'s Life and Time (Czech Television)

The First Department (Czech Television)

Tannbach, Schicksal eines Dorfes - Fate of a village (ZDF, Germany)

Reportress (Czech Television)

Spring 2014

Prague, Dlouhá 30.3.2014

Zagreb 10.4.2014

Basileia 25.4.2014

Zurich 27.4.2014

The beginning of the year 2014

Critic on our CD Jidiš VE TŘECH

Itzik goes to market to buy a horse

It's a too long way for Itzik and the innkeeper stands in the door offering him a glass of wine. And so he didn't buy a horse, but it didn't bother him at all. This is a synopsis of a song on the Yiddish THREESOME album (2013) that came out last autumn, sung, produced and issued by Hana Frejková supported by various sponsors, especially by the Jewish Museum in Prague. The title of the CD refers to her music group, coincidentally the third one of those Hana Frejková gathered around her for performing Jewish music – its specific sound is created by Milan Potoček and his clarinet and Slávek Brabec with his accordion. Hana's daughter Marianna Borecká often joins the threesome to enliven things up.

Fifteen songs of the album are of the kind created by life itself – some are traditional folk songs, some have known authors, but all of them originate in concrete life situations such as people encounter every day and some also add an upshot moral: Itzik didn't buy a horse, but he had a good time drinking at the inn and enjoying his favourite tunes. We all know that wives are never satisfied with their husbands and even old spinsters always complain one thing or another. Potatoes are served for lunch every day and as a change a full pot of potatoes on the Sabbath Day! However there is also a gentle lullaby, a song about a rabbi, and a love song. One song comes from a 1936 musical– don't waste time worrying about everyday troubles, life is just a joke!

It isn't important to know exactly what each Yiddish song is about. These songs communicate the feelings of people, who are behind these episodes and who express their experience through songs. Folk music, especially Jewish songs, always expresses the mentality of the community from which it originates. When thinking about these songs, it always comes to my mind why it was so disgusting for Hitler and Nazis: they are composed and sung disorderly, with no rules like a stray mongrel at a railway station. Hana Frejková's interpretation emphasizes these properties: she intones and declaims, lengthens phrases and tones, plays with the witty rhythm, exclaims, dramatises, softens her voice to express a lyrical point or yells out a cynical street song full of mischief. She simply follows her own mood.  Jewish music is inspired by many sources, predominantly by the oriental melismatic melodies. The accompaniment  by the clarinet and the accordion provides a perfect harmonious support and connects the songs with the European urbane culture. The threesome / foursome are all excellent musicians both technically and in their style. The seemingly improvised music is of course meticulously prepared.

I have the CD on my table, actually in my player for a time and I love to listen to it quite often. I perceive the songs as an essence of rabbinical wisdom and Jewish humour – based on a deep, matter of fact logic that unmasks the paradoxes contained in superficial points of view. You will not easily get tired of these songs and they will cheer you up. They are kind of optimistic. Moaning and complaining won’t get you anywhere. Maintaining a good mood has always been an advantage for all life’s outsiders.

  • by: Josef Herman
  • Published: January 4th, 2014

Old Czech songs 15.1.2014.

November 2013

Concerts in Prague and Berlin

October 31, 2013

Theater in Dlouhá
Concert with a presentation on new CD.

Summer 2013

Concert and book presentation in Slavonice

Recording studio Smečky - Prague


June 12, 2013

Concert at the occasion of preparing "SOA Memorial "
and the "Kaddish" exhibition.

Spring 2013

Festival "Prague - The Heart of Nations"



Vinohrady Theatre



Concent in theater in Dlouhá, 19.5.2013

January, February 2013

Františkovy Lázně, 6.2.2013



Velká synagoga, Pilsen, 20.1.2013.



Maiselova, 16.1.2013



PF 2013



13.12.2012 Cologne


www.duesseldorf.czechcentres.cz

May 2012 Prague - Theater in Dlouhá and saint's-day in the Charles Square.

Theater in Dlouhá


Photo: 1, 2, 3 - Marianna Borecká; 4 - Karel Cudlín

Charles Square


Photo: Marianna Borecká

March 2012 concert in Schwalbach at Frankfurt am Mainz and purim concert in Düsseldorf.

Schwalbach


Photo: Marianna Borecká

Düsseldorf


Photo: Marianna Borecká

November 2011 Hattersheim



Yiddish in Three

Songs about human suffering, ups and downs of life in a „post office courtyard cellar“

The city of Hattersheim has invited us to the post office courtyard cellar to an extraordinary concert night. Hana Frejková, Milan Potoček and Slávek Brabec from Prague have introduced their fascinating, affecting program „Yiddish in Three“ full of delights of living.

The singer and actress, who was born in London, has presented a spectacularly intensive concert accompanied with equally perfect musicians. „I sing songs that mean very much to me, they talk about human sorrow, sadness and delights,“ described her program the internationally known artist, who graduated at the Janáček's Academy of Arts in Brno. She was accompanied by Milan Potoček (clarinet) and Slávek Brabec (accordion). Instrumentation of songs corresponds to tradition of Jewish songs and its markedly expressive style evokes deep impression. Klezmers and fiddlers use it when playing both on streets, in pubs and backyards. In Hattersheim, Hana Frejková, singer and actress in many international theatre, musical, cabaret a film productions, has demonstrated a complete range of her skills and fascinated the audience with her charm and grace, whether singing about the neat thief Awreiml, who hoped to have the following epitaph on his grave: „Here lies Awreiml, a very good man“, or about orphans or financial troubles of a young man.

It is clear that the audience did not allow this charismatic personality to leave without an encore.

Relating to the photo: The singer and actress Hana Frejková has presented a spectacularly intensive concert accompanied with equally perfect musicians.



June, July 2011 concerts in Frankfurt am Mainz, Munich, Mikulov and within the festival "Šamajim" in Třebíč

Munich



Societies Adalbert –Stifter-Verein, German Sudeten Fund and the Czech Centre organized a small concert in Munich within the framework of the exhibition related to a project "Disappeared Neighbours ", A Prague actress and singer Hana Frejková appeared in the German Sudeten House in Munich together with her daughter Marianna Borecká. The programme was called "Yiddish Trio" and was musically accompanied by Milan Potoček (clarinet) and Slávek Brabec (accordion).
The seats at the Alfred Kubin gallerywere sold out and the gallery resounded to loud d applause . One could hardly find any space for extra chairs among the current exhibits at the gallery. The songs of the small ensemble gripped everyone and the listeners were enthusiastic In fact, the singer, Hana Frejková from Prague, is primarily an actress. She was born in London as a daughter of a Jewish father and his German wife. Her parents lived there as exiles during the war. Hana studied at the Janáček's Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Brno. After several long-term engagements, e.g. in Karlovy Vary and in Prague, she worked as an independent artist at several international projects. She performed in musicals, cabarets, films and TV productions. German audience knows her especially from a film production of Michael Verhoeven's My Mother's Courage by George Taboris. However, all the way through she has also been engaged in singing, performing Yiddish songs similar to those presented at the German Sudeten House.
As the name of the program (Yiddish Trio) reveals, Frejková appeared together with the jazz musician Milan Potoček and the keyboard virtuoso Slávek Brabec. Zuzana Jürgens, the director of the Czech Centre in Munich announced another guest as a surprise. During some songs, the trio was expanded by Marianna Borecká, the singer's daughter, who studies biology in Prague and who proved herself to be an excellent singer.
At the very beginning, Hana Frejková explained that German is her mother tongue. "I mean the language my mother used," the charming singer corrected herself. Her mother, Elisabeth Henke-Warnholz from Hamburg married Ludwig Freund from Liberec, a Jewish journalist, who later became an economist and Hana's father. Under his new name Ludvík Frejka, Freund was from 1945 until 1952 an economical advisor to the president of the Czechoslovak republic. In 1952 he was executed in the so called Slánský Trials. As Hana Frejková describes in her autobiographic book "Strange roots" (2007), he was rehabilitated posthumously as late as 1963, Memoir of Hana Frejková also deals with her Jewish and German roots. Her music represents a way of expressing her respect for her father. “Although”, she adds,” we didn't speak any Yiddish at home at all."
Before starting to sing, the singer gave a short summary for each song to help the German audience to understand. Hana’s pronunciation was very clear due to her careful training and therefore the listeners could understand her songs very well. Harmonic melodies and catchy rhythms addressed everybody, legs and shoulders moved with the rhythm.
In fast sequence the musicians presented a selection of songs in Yiddish, that were created mostly at the turn of the 19th century.. Melancholic sad songs alternated with humorous ones. In the first song, Awrejml confesses his thieving and relates how he was forced to thieve as an orphan. Then followed a song called Spilt, a classical pleading: Play musicians, play a song without tears! Play what I want and what I feel".
In a song called "Dortn" a young man asks his distant girlfriend for love letters. The song "Machatejnste majne" concerns a wicked mother-in-law, Wajbelech" is an ironic complaint of dissatisfied wives. The female part of the audience responded to the summary of this song by laughing and saying "Better to stay a spinster!". The song "Schwartse Karschelech", describes an organ grinder from Warsaw: "Pick black cherries, leave the green ones; love pretty girls, leave the ugly ones …". Its sweet melody and variable voice fascinated the audience.
During a fire alarm song "S brennt!” and during a song called "Dire-Gelt, the singer demonstrated her dramatic skills by engaging all her body and involved her mimics and gestures to make the song content clearer. No wonder since in "Dire-Gelt”, a claim is made by a poor young man who isn’t able to pay his rent. Among her favourites Frejková named "Papirosn", a song from the Russian Civil War in 1919. An orphan from Odessa sells cigarettes at the black market to survive. As Hana explained the plot, she stretched her pleading hands toward the imaginary customers in a perfect pantomime.
The two instrumentalists also proved their skilsl during various solos: Brabec changed the accordion into the organ and seemed to sound an alarm, Potoček's clarinet once whispered, once blared. Hasidic song "As der Rebbe singt" with its brisk refrain encouraged all the guests to sing along and almost to dance.
Finally tender lullabies were heard: "Schlaf schön, meine Königin" was dedicated to a hungry little girl. She was promised: "When you wake up in the morning, the room will be full of bread". In the poetic lullaby "Veigele", Hana’s daughter Marianna with her dark voice had a solo. After another lively song about a rabbi (when rabbi Elimejlech drinks too much he invites two violinists…), was the first encore and yet another lullaby finally wished everybody good night.
On arrival, the guestswere received by Wolfgang Schwarz, an agent for the Czech Countries from the society "Stifter Verein". There was also an opportunity to see an impressive exhibition, which created a fitting visual background to Yiddish songs . The travelling exhibition called "Zmizelí sousedé" ("Disappeared neigbours") told life stories of the Jews deported during the Second World War, and was part of a project of the same name initiated by the Jewish Museum in Prague. Czech students went searching for the fates of the deported Jewish fellow citizens that had lived in the near neighborhood. Klaus Mohr from the Sudeten German foundation stated that the exhibition would be presented in Stutgart next. Mohr also ensured that all the names of the villages listed at the exhibition were expressed both in Czech and in German.
Susanne Habel


Frankfurt

March, April 2011 concerts in Weiden, Františkovy Lázně, Wroclaw.

Weiden



“Schpil,schpil mir a Lidele mit Harts un mit Gefil”. Hana Frejkova not only sang but used the movements of her whole body to perform each word. The renowned Prague singer and actress held on Sunday a concert of Yiddish songs in a synagogue before a large audience of visitors. Through these songs the international artist paid her respects to her Jewish heritage. Frejkova has worked on a large number of international theatre and film productions such as Michael Verhoeven's film adaptation of Gerorge Taboris's “Mother Courage”. In Weiden she was accompanied by the eminent clarinettist Milan Potocek and by Slavek Brabec on the accordion. The London born actress and singer and graduate of the Janacek Academy in Brno, presented the programme in German which is not her mother tongue but rather the tongue of her mother.. The highest points of the concert were Hermann Jablokoff's (1903-1981) “Papirosn”, the moving “Dortn is Dortn” about a couple that separate and a song about the thief Avrejm who dreams of an honourable gravestone. The singer humorously portrayed grumbling wives and complaining mother-in-laws. Not even the drunk “Rabbi Melech” was spared her wise and elegant humour. The singer also addressed the serious theme of persecution and pogroms in the song “Unser Schtetl brennt” with a solemn reserve. It did not end simply with the piercingly heart rending chords of the accordion, the accusation led to the plea “Don't stand there doing nothing, go and put out the fire!” The perfectly harmonized trio became a quartet during the moving song of reconciliation when they were joined by Hana Frejkova's daughter, Marianna Borecka. Normally more interested in biology than music she made a significant contribution with her rich dark voice and sparkling musicality.


Photo: Anastasia Poscharsky Ziegler and Marianna Borecká

Františkovy Lázně


Photo: Marianna Borecká

Wroclaw


Photo: Marianna Borecká

2011 Evening composed from poetry by Marina Cvetajeva

"... but first of all the same bed. Did you mean abyss?"

director: Irena Žantovská,
music: Tomáš Reindl,
cast: Nela Boudová, Jana Bernášková, Hana Frejková, Slávek Brabec.

April 2010 Yiddish IN THREE

with clarinettist Milan Potoček and accordionist Slávek Brabec.

Accordion and clarinet are instruments of klezmers, scrapers, who played inpubs, on courtyards and streets. They are adherent to Jewish songs adding them unforgettable charm a creating a unique mood.

2009Macedonian Opera and Ballet in Skopje, 22.6.2009

2007Strange Roots – reviews

Dnes

Kavárna Column, December 1, 2007
Jozef Chuchma

I finally have an idea who I am

Divný kořeny - obálka

Actress HANA FREJKOVÁ has written a unique story about searching for herself and digging for truth about her heavily stigmatized family. Her father was executed in 1952 after a trial with an alleged treasonous conspiratorial group.

Many books have been written about the political trials of the 1950’s, including memoirs by the accused who survived (such as Artur London) or by widows of executed “traitors” (Josefa Slánská, Heda Margoliová). The book Strange Roots by actress Hana Frejková is different in three aspects.

These are the memories of a woman of another generation, who perceived the trials as a little child barely of school age. She embarked on a systematic mission to find out what actually was going on around her father, Ludvík Frejka, who was head of the Economic Department of the Office of the President of the Republic before he was arrested, and she became an amateur researcher in the archives that were made accessible after November 1989. Frejková has developed the collage of her narration as a story of her personal growth, her – to use the language of Jungian psychology – individuation, her “strange roots.”

We disclaimed ourselves, damn it

“The fiftieth anniversary of the trial with the treasonous conspiratorial group has stirred up my childhood memories…of the terror that was taking place before my seven-year-old eyes…of my parents who undoubtedly meant well, who loved me and wished only the best for me. Paradoxically, I have been tormented by guilt all my life. (…) By feeling guilty for having ever believed that my father was – to put it in a child’s words – a traitor, that they supposedly talked him into becoming a spy when he was imprisoned in England,” Frejková says at the beginning of her book. After some eighty pages, she adds: “That fateful night, I was told that my father was a traitor. And so we disclaimed each other. We disclaimed the most important thing in human life, the basic values that make one’s life meaningful; we disclaimed ethics, the primary order. It still makes me cry; I want to push so hard on my pen and make a hole in the paper while writing this, that’s how much it hurts! We were thrown between millwheels and grinded to powder.”

Just as a reminder: In November 1952, a trial was staged with Communist “conspirators;” eleven of them were sentenced to death (including Rudolf Slánský, Secretary General of the Czechoslovak Communist Party) and three to life imprisonment. Except for two, all these men were of Jewish origin, including Ludvík Frejka (born 1904). His original name was Ludwig Freund and his family came from the town of Liberec. He defected to England to flee from the Nazis. Hana was born in London in January 1945 to him and his wife, Elisabeth Henke-Warnholtz (1907 – 1990), who came from Hamburg and was an actress in the Czechoslovak Republic between the two wars. After WWII, the family of staunch Communists returned to Prague. Following the father’s execution, the mother and the daughter were evicted to the Sudetenland. Hana’s mother worked at a textile factory; Hana attended school. When the father was rehabilitated in 1963, they were allowed to come back to Prague. “Although I was born in London, the exile made a village girl out of me and I was scared even to get on a paternoster lift. I struggled to cope with our new situation, but my original guilt increasingly got in my way. And so instead of enjoying my “return” to Prague, I wrestled with my soul; I was trying to get to the substance of myself, my young life went from one extreme to another, from drinking, depression, LSD…protests of all kinds.”

Nevertheless, Hana graduated from the Janáček Academy of Music and Drama (JAMU) in 1967, she worked with theatres in Karlovy Vary, Kladno and Prague; at the time of “normalization” in the 1970’s, she spent ten years secretly visiting a psychoanalyst; she got married, became a freelancer and had two daughters. Slowly, she began to live her own life, for herself, without any eroding remorse, recognizing her own unique value and her own way. Her book, Strange Roots, is the evidence and confirmation of this.

Antonín Had to Believe

Strange Roots fluctuates between memoirs, confession and an avowal motivated by self-therapy. The author knows that it will only be worthwhile if she tells the entire story. The ungrammatical Czech title of the book shows that not only is Frejková not shy to use – not frequently, but highly functionally – expressive language, but also that the bilingual or even multilingual world of her parents collided with their faith in Communism and with the terror of history, as a result of which the only language Hana has ever learned was Czech; and even that is a bit “strange,” showing up in her not always correct use of idioms, for instance.

The original nervy quality of the book is significantly contributed to by citations from archival materials: from secret police surveillance reports, from testimonies of investigators who had to confess (but were not held responsible) before commissions several years after the monstrous trial with Slánský and the others, from miscellaneous correspondence including the letters Hana’s mother wrote to state officials and their answers to her. “…there are many things one would rather not believe if they did not have to,” Antonín Zápotocký wrote to Hana’s mother on 14 June 1952.

I give considerable credit to Frejková’s book – save for the following: I cannot understand why the publishing house did not better promote the book in the blurb – it would have sufficed to provide basic, well formulated information on the content. Apparently, there are missing captions with some reproductions of documents and photographs. And the text by historian Pavel Žáček is far more of a lecturer’s expert opinion than an epilogue. Nevertheless, there is absolutely no doubt that Strange Roots certainly is far from being a commonplace book. (jch)

Strange Roots
Hana Frejková. Epilogue by Pavel Žáček; photographs of archival documents by Blanka Lamrová. Torst, Praha 2007, 180 pages, recommended price CZK 199.


Vltava Club Magazine

Winter 2007
A quarterly of listeners and friends of Český rozhlas 3 – Vltava radio station

Fates – Radio Memoirs
Hana Frejková: Strange Roots

Divný kořeny

Hana Frejková was born as Hannah Elisabeth Freund in London in 1945. In her book, Strange Roots, she says that she has never used any of these names.

The parents of Hana Frejková were the actress Elisabeth Warnholtz, a Hamburg-born German who lived in Bohemia from 1945 until her death, and Ludvík Frejka, his original name being Ludwig Freund, born in Liberec, a journalist by profession who was executed resulting from a political trial on December 3, 1952. He was an economist, a policymaker and a political writer. ... The staged trial was held between November 20 and 27, 1952. Ludvík Frejka was accused of high treason and espionage, one of the charges being that he allegedly wanted to form a “European federation.” He was sentenced to death and executed shortly thereafter.

In her book, Hana Frejková writes: “The result was that he was hanged; my mum grieved all her life and I have been torn by all sorts of guilt. The ones who suffered most were us who loved one another so much, and our little family found itself in a fatal grip of crushing stones.”

Hana Frejková writes about how she lost all her roots and family continuity when she was seven years old. She and her mother were moved out of their flat in Prague and lived as exiles. Her mother stopped speaking German; Hana has never learned it. ... The book Strange Roots contains numerous citations from family documents as well as court files and materials made available by the State Secret Police archives. However, the main theme is the personal line of the author, her search for herself, the “squaring up.” ... Among those sentenced to death, Ludvík Frejka represented three offences: he was a Jew, he disagreed with the Soviet economic philosophy and, on top of that, he was German. His example was a clear warning about the kind of people who simply would not be tolerated under Communist politics of the Soviet bloc.

Today, we can hear Hana Frejková in concerts signing chansons in Yiddish and see her on the stage of the Divadlo v Dlouhé. In her book, from which she will be reading in the Fates cycle, she has written: “My Father left when my skirts were short and, through this story, has come back now when my skirts are long...”

Alena Zemančíková


Roš chodeš

12/2007

Hana Frejková’s Time Travel

She was born in England, her parents fled from the Nazis who then killed the rest of her father’s family. Her father was an economist; after the war, he could settle anywhere he wanted, but he chose a country in which, just a few years later, his own colleagues and comrades invaded his home at night, imprisoned him, accused him of treason and, eventually, executed him. They then scattered his ashes under the wheels of cars on a side road. She was seven years old at the time. Her friends avoided her; one night, the secret police packed her and her mother in a lorry and took them away to exile. After some time, it turned out that her father had not been a conspirator, but fell a victim to his friends’ plot. With the passing of time, they gradually admitted a mistake was made, but they felt no guilt whatsoever. However, one of the victims felt guilty. “We disclaimed the most important thing in human life, the basic values that make one’s life meaningful; we disclaimed the ethics, the primary order,” Hana Frejková recollects many years later in her book Strange Roots, recently published by Torst, Prague. “It still makes me cry; I want to push hard on the pen and make a hole in the paper writing this, that’s how much it hurts! We were thrown between millwheels and grinded to powder… All my life, I have agonized over having ever believed that my father was a traitor.”

A tragic involution, a plot, a judicial murder, twists of luck and fatal decisions, an innocent child amidst calamity, even a chorus (represented here by the multitude of informers and setters) – indeed, this story has some elements of an ancient drama, as the author herself ironically suggests. Only it is as if Kafka or Ionesco were the literary advisors: to save himself, the accused accuses himself and memorizes a fabricated testimony; it is possible that he was guilty of something, perhaps of helping, as they say, “set the mills turning that then grinded him to dust,” but definitely not of what he was sentenced for; it is not the murderers who feel guilty, it is the victim, and what is more, a child of this victim – even though half a century had gone by…

Hana Frejková waited for half a century before she dared going back in time to that seven-year-old girl, and even a bit further. She has captured her discoveries, experiences and thoughts in a book that is difficult to characterize in terms of a literary form. It is a bit wild: there are changing tenses, various levels of narration and author’s methods; there is a mixture of genres, a little bit of memoirs here, a little bit of a detective story there, examination of strictly factual documents, a confession, something of an essay, something of investigative non-fiction. Surprisingly though, it is coherent. The author relates what she remembers, but her memories are only one of the routes she pursues on her search mission. On another tangent, she searches round the world for her kith and kin, another takes her to the archives, on yet another, she struggles to put the fragments of her findings together, trying to assess them. It is this rewarding compositional motif of a journey and nearly detective inquiry that holds the text together and moves it forward, keeping the author’s – and the reader’s – attention. The author determines the direction and character of the search, she takes an active part in it and assesses it at the same time; she is both the object and the subject of the events. It would be impossible to do it otherwise, considering what her search is about.

On her way back in time, Frejková is surprised to find out that she knows nothing of her parents’ background, is not sure of her own name, mother tongue, nationality, her place in the country where she lives… All this sounds like a setting for a silly soap opera, but for the author, it is the setting of her life. We believe her that, more than other people, she needs to find “herself, a patch of firm ground underneath (her) feet.” “Relationships in our family were absolutely abnormal; our lives were guilt-soaked and it was the guilt that continued to exist under the surface and kept us in the grip of totality,” she says. “I want to confess to that guilt, I want to accuse my parents and, at the same time, I want to exonerate them by telling about their lives, about my life, about the way to become an individual who has a right to live in a society and to find a place in the sun!”

Frejková had the subject matter for a novel, but apparently, this was not her ambition; she just wanted to bear testimony – and she did that in an extraordinarily brilliant and authentic way. The thing is – she approached the task from a completely opposite direction than is customary. She did not take her journey against the current of time for the sake of her audience, but to “answer to herself the question of how it could all have happened.” Unlike many others, she is not looking to find justification in the circumstances of the era; she is not interested in the guilt of others, she tries to identify and weigh the extent of her own guilt and that of the people closest to her. If she arrives at any conclusions, she leaves it up to the reader to accept or reject them.

And so her book suggests one of the ways of really doing what we have only heard repeated ad nauseam – to ‘square up’ with the past. The fact that it can still be done so credibly after fifty years is quite encouraging.

Tomáš Pěkný


Divadelní noviny

17/1 8/January 2008

A gentleman sends his regards to you... they hanged his father, too

To be a child of a Communist sentenced to death in a political trial in the 1950’s – let alone, in the main trial with the alleged treasonous conspiratorial group of Rudolf Slánský – is a lifelong stigma nearly impossible to cope with. The actions and attitudes of the parents are incomprehensible now; their life stories are impenetrable and their ends desperate regardless of whether they were sentenced to death or rehabilitated later on – for the most part, awkwardly and half-heartedly. Their mutilated lives and the lives of their wives are full of pain and bloodstains that cannot be washed off. Their children, too, have been carrying this infliction within themselves throughout their lives. In a way, their trauma is even deeper, because they did nothing to bring it upon themselves; to this day, they have not really understood what happened, who their parents really were, and why one of them ended up being executed.

“This year, it will be four years from the fiftieth anniversary of the Slánský trial, and I have waded through it all. Finally, I mustered the courage to immerse myself in it, to find out what actually happened. Perhaps, it was because I had no other alternative; perhaps, I did not want to leave it open-ended; the whole story, the sorrows, the struggling, the standstills, the faltering, the desperation.”

Actress Hana Frejková was born in London on 17 January 1945. Her mother Elisabeth (born 1907) came from the Ruperti family, prominent businessmen and merchants in Hamburg. In the end of the 1920’s, she studied at the private acting school of Elke Grüning in Berlin; she was awarded the Max Reinhardt Prize as one of the best theatre school graduates in Germany and left for Prague to join the New German Theatre, where she stayed until the beginning of World War II. Under her maiden name of Elisabeth Warnholtz, she acted in plays by Wedekind, Goethe, Moliere, Katajev, Danton, Strindberg, and Hauptmann. In the mid 1930’s, she became a Czechoslovak citizen and a Czechoslovak Communist Party member. She left the country fleeing from Hitler on the last train that departed from the Wilson Station on 15 March 1939. Her brother-in-law carried her luggage; he was a Wehrmacht officer who had arrived to Prague with the army in the morning that day and came to visit his relation. Two hours after he and Elisabeth left the flat, the Gestapo came for her. Her brother-in-law – “a nice guy” – then died in the first assault on the Soviet Union in 1941. In exile, she immediately joined the anti-fascist resistance.

Hana Frejková’s father Ludvík, formerly Ludwig Freund, was born in 1904. He was a Jew, descended from a German Czech family of medical doctors living in Liberec (most of his relatives perished in concentration camps during the war); he studied in Berlin and at the London School of Economics. In his youth, he became a Communist. ... He spent the war years in London, where he worked with the exiled government of President Beneš. After the war, he became a high official of the Central Committee of the Czechoslovak Communist Party as an economist; between 1948 and 1952, he was head of the Economic Department of the Office of the President of the Republic, Klement Gottwald. On January 31, 1952, he was arrested; in the main trial with Slánský in November, he was, together with another ten people, sentenced to death and executed on December 3. “The sentenced was brought in at 5:01 a.m.; the execution started at 5:03 a.m.; the executioner reported the execution to have been done at 5:05 a.m.; the medical doctor pronounced the sentenced dead at 5:10 a.m.; the sentenced made no statement before execution,” Frejková quotes from a document she obtained when mapping the history and the roots of her family after the fall of Communism in November 1989. She has described this search, this discovery, this painful belated journey to find her father and mother, but really to find herself and her past, which the tragic events had locked somewhere deep in her subconscious, in her recently published book Strange Roots (Torst, 2007). It is stirring and, at the same time, sorrowful reading. The fates she writes about were dreadful. But dreadfully uprooted was also her own fate...

... Despite that, Hana graduated from a grammar school and started working as a student actress/lighting technician at the theatre in Most. After 1963, she studied at the Janáček Academy of Music and Drama. ... She has continued to be a professional actress since then; today she is a freelancer. Her life “has gone from one extreme to another, from drinking, depression, LSD…protests.”

In her book, she gives a most truthful account of her traumas. In the form of a detective investigation, she gradually unveils to the reader the history of her family, offering comments, often critical and/or posing great questions. In the Czech environment, this is a unique book, more or less a novella with documentary features; it captures the tragedies of the 1950’s, their genesis and consequences through the eyes of a child and, later, an innocent victim. It is fascinating to read. It is important to hear stories like this. Only through them can we comprehend at least some of the impervious, incomprehensible history of this country and us – its children – in the second half of the 20th century.

“I lived at the periphery of the society and I was merely allowed to survive. I was constantly in the grip of guilt. (...) I want to confess to that guilt, I want to accuse my parents and, at the same time, I want to exonerate them by telling about their lives.”

Vladimír Hulec


Právo

February 7, 2008

The Roots of Hana Frejková

“Actors put their souls into trying to be different, exceptional. I have tried to be normal all my life. I got fed up with exceptionalities,” she notes in her biographical book entitled Strange Roots (published by Torst).

Traveling the Depths of Fate
In the one hundred and seventy-five pages of her book, Hana Frejková has probed into the dramatic and tragic fate of her parents, recollecting her own memories, searching for her relatives abroad, browsing through family correspondence, but mainly doing an almost detective-like investigation into the archives of the Ministry of Interior.

Motiv byl zprvu zcela osobní: Chtěla jsem se dobrat toho, jací byli mí rodiče a proč to udělali, tedy proč mi to udělali? Potíž byla v tom, že svého otce vlastně nestačila poznat a cesta za pochopením matky byla svízelná a bolestná.

(...) The time went on, there came the invasion year of 1968, the years of normalization, and then the velvet year of 1989. “You will have a hard time now, girl, being a daughter of Communists,” was one of her mother’s last sentences in hospital in 1990.

That’s the Way It Is
And this is the last sentence of the non-pining, matter-of-fact, and highly compelling Strange Roots: “When our daughter Marjánka was thirteen years old (…) she found herself at our embassy in London and sent me this SMS: A gentleman sends his regards to you, I have forgotten his name, he’s got a beard, they hanged his father, too, and he is now a programmer here in England.” Thank you, Marjánka; without this SMS, I could hardly end up as usual by saying: That’s the way it is.

Pavel Šrut, Právo

2008 Divadelní noviny

4 March 2008

Divadelní noviny has recently published a complimentary review of Strange Roots (Torst, Prague 2007), a book by actress Hana Frejková (born in 1945). From 18 February, Vltava radio station was broadcasting her readings from the book. ... The traditional Fates section, starting every weekday at 11:30, devoted above-standard ten sequels to her reading; the excerpts, carefully selected by Alena Zemančíková and Míla Ruzhová, proved this well worthwhile, particularly owing to the unpretentious performance of the protagonist, whose family’s lives were certainly not easy.

....

Her parents brought her up as a Czech, although they had to speak German to each other. Her father Czechified his name from Ludwig Freund to Ludvík Frejka and became engaged in building socialism in former Czechoslovakia. Her mother started learning Czech together with her daughter.

Only a few years later, in 1952, Ludvík Frejka was executed in a “trial with the treasonous conspiratorial group.” What followed was a longtime martyrdom for the rest of the family. Yet, the reader can hear that at least one of the unfortunate parents’ plans certainly came off. They succeeded in bringing up their daughter as a true Czech, who has, for all her life, been confirming this transformation as an excellent actress. And now even as the author of an engrossing Czech book.

Petr Pavlovský


TVAR 09/08

IN SEARCH OF PAST TIME

Hana Frejková: Strange Roots, Torst, Prague 2007

Strange Roots is neither non-fiction, a biography of the author’s parents and the image of their public activities, as could be written by Pavel Kosatík, for instance, nor is it an autobiography of Hana Frejková. It is real literature, not a dry report. The author constantly interrupts the related factual data by specific memories from her childhood, spent with her mother in the little North Bohemian town of Janov, from her student years as well as from her first years as an actress; she speaks about her trips to Hamburg and London, she tries to decide where to deposit the urn with her mother’s ashes, and she talks to her computer. Sometimes, the reader laughs, such as when Frejková realizes that she has been encountering difficulties throughout every era and offers a good-soldier-Svejk-like comment: “Once unwelcome, always unwelcome.” More often, though, your eyes will tear up when reading this book. The book owes its first-hand and heart-to-heart quality to the author’s language. It is written in standard Czech with occasional conscious slips into the morphology and vocabulary of colloquial Czech, as indicated by the very title of the book in Czech. Frejková read excerpts from her book in the Fates show at the Vltava radio station, but even when you just read the book, you can almost hear her animated storytelling.

Several times in her book, the author voices her doubts about what nationality she actually is, with both parents being originally German and her father being Jewish and “Deutschbohme” on top of that. These deliberations are the leitmotif of the book. Although she enjoys using popular idioms (having eyes like tennis balls, I looked like a freshly turned-up mouse) and can paraphrase citations from the fictitious Czech genius Jára Cimrman, Frejková insists, though rather jokingly, that quite far into her adult age, she was uncertain about the meaning of some Czech idioms, the reason allegedly being that her mother, who never really became intimately acquainted with the Czech language, kept silent with Hana during her early childhood. Frejková sums up the search for her national identity in a single sentence: “Simply, I am myself, a mixture I have pieced up somehow. But I did it!” Her Strange Roots proves that, beside acting and singing talents, she also has literary abilities and can write well in Czech. I hope, therefore, that she would not object if I described her using the final verses from a 1930’s poem by Otokar Fischer: “... I’ve been given keys to many a flat // their number being great. // But I only have one homeland // the land of The Bouquet.”

Jiří Rambousek

(Note of translator: The Bouquet, in Czech Kytice, is a collection of ballads by the Czech author Karel Jaromír Erben.)


Babylon Volume XVII No. 6

Your Father Was a Traitor

Deliberations and memories of Hana Frejková mingle with authentic documents obtained by the author from police archives. The corrupt language of documents and protocols of the State Secret Police, her parents’ correspondence from prison, routine official reports – all play a major part in the plan of the author. Language, as a means of communication, reaches beyond intellectual perception. Hana Frejková is aware of this, having had to learn to perceive many things rather intuitively herself. Even her book is rather intuitive, subtly sketched, as an unfinished sentence. It is neither because of her fear of the truth, nor because of inconsistency, but simply because some things defy real understanding.

Stanislav Škoda

2009 “Well-Colored” Story

Kateřina Vlčková
Rozhlas Weekly 1/2009

On 20 November, Hana Frejková read her piece “Klema’s Last Charwoman” in the Modern Story cycle at the Vltava radio station under the dramaturgy of Alena Zemančíková and direction by Petr Mančal. The noted actress and singer (you could listen to her memoirs, Strange Roots, as part of the Fates cycle this year in February) brings us to the mausoleum at Vítkov Hill in Prague, where the mummified body of “our first working-class President” Klement (aka Klema) Gottwald was kept in the 1950’s.

Speaking in the first person, the title character calls Gottwald by his familiar name of Klema. As far as cleanliness is concerned, he is in the best hands with her; (…) our little Mary, the comrades say about her, (…) she can polish even the unpolishable. And so she keeps polishing away “because things need to be clean, you know…”

Gradually, the mausoleum opens up to us. (...) The plot is composed of little splinters of action; put together, they depict repeated embalming efforts, related by a lay witness, an ordinary woman of her time, and a trustworthy comrade on top of that. Yet, the character’s entrance upon the radio stage has made her unique.

Quite irrationally, ninety-eight employees took care of a single corpse. (...) If we did not know that the author had relied on historical facts, we would have to laugh in disbelief.

The obvious satire only lightly tinkles in the audience’s ears without disturbing the soft and velvety voice of Hana Frejková. (...) After a few sentences, we get a clear picture of a petite line-faced woman in her fifties, enormously honored with this unique, vital task. This is a person, who has been missing the symbol of the Communist regime very much and who looks up to his remains as a sacrament. Take his forehead, for instance – the symbol of great wisdom that produced such magnificent ideas. What a blow that he had to die!

This radio piece is a shining example of working with voice. The author gracefully handles the sharp cuts between the characters of the narrator and the charwoman. When the charwoman finds out that the President’s body is missing an arm, a leg and the torso, she is so devastated that the audience can almost taste the salt in her tears.

The story is underpinned by corresponding music, adding to the context of the era – a choir singing the International, the Dead Revolutionaries March that the past regime made so profane, or the parade march of the Castle Guard.

Klema’s Last Charwoman not only lets the audience delight in the beauty of the spoken word, refined text and its excellent rendition, but also reminds us of how an aggressive ideology can indoctrinate the brain of an ordinary human being.

2006 Masquerade

Theatre in Dlouhá, Terry Pratchett Masquerade directed by Hana Burešová

Masquerade

2005 3+1 with Donutil

3+1 with Donutil

2005 Podvíní

photo by Martin Patočka

2004 Snowboard Men

From a review:
Finally, this is a Czech film that could become a teen cult film. Directed by Karel Janak, Snowboard Men follows up on the best tradition of Czech ‘mountain comedies' while being modern, slightly romantic and full of humour...

Snowboard Men

2004 Nine Gates

In 2004, Hana Frejkova sang at the Nine Gates Festival with the Duo in Three group, inviting violinist Alexandr Schonert as her guest.

Nine Gates

2004 Mine-Haha

Mine-Haha

2003 Songs in Yiddish

performing: Hana Frejková - voice, Michal Hromek - guitar

From the book The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten: For the benefit of innocents, I hasten to add that Yiddish and Hebrew are entirely different languages. A knowledge of one will not give you even a rudimentary understanding of the other. True, Yiddish uses the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, employs a great many Hebrew words, and is written, like Hebrew, from right to left. But Yiddish and Hebrew are as different from each other as are English and French, which also use a common alphabet, share many words, and together proceed from left to right.
Nor is Yiddish a synonym for Jewish. Yiddish is the name of a language. Technically speaking, there is no language called Jewish. Strictly speaking, Jews do not speak Jewish any more than Canadians speak Canadian, or Baptists read Baptist. But it would be foolish to deny that in popular English usage, Jewish is used as a synonym for Yiddish. After all, Yiddish comes from the German Jüdisch, meaning Jewish, and in the Yiddish language itself Yiddish means Jewish. We may as well accept reality.

The magic of the Yiddish language comes alive in traditional songs written mostly at the turn of the XXth century. They tell of human joy and sorrow with both irony, wit, as well as nostalgy. Hana Frejková accompanies her concert with Jewish proverbs, jokes and quotations from Leo Rosten´s book The Joys of Yiddish. The songs, sung in Yiddish, talk about hardships as well as joys of the Jewish people. Each of the songs has its own unique history. The author of the Papirosn song, for instance, wrote the piece between 1919 and 1920 during the civil war in Odessa, then he left for Turkey and was never heard of again. Another example is The Dortn, Dortn, a love song that reportedly became the anthem of the Soviet partisans during WWII, many of them Jewish.

2003 From an Interview with Irena Douskova for Maskil Magazine

You sing with Prager Tandlmarkt; a CD of the same name came out two years ago and was an immediate success. How long have you been working together?

I have been singing with Prager Tandlmarkt for the past three years, with a violin, clarinet, accordion, guitar and base. One of the highlights of our work was last autumn, when we gave a successful concert at the Prague Season festival in Paris, France. As to my most recent activities, I have started touring with a recital of my own last autumn, accompanied by the guitarist and composer Michal Hromek. In addition to songs, I speak a little bit more compared to Prager Tandlmarkt concerts. I have been using The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. I tell Jewish anecdotes to explain the Yiddish expressions that the audience encounters in the songs and I select various stories depending on the season and current holidays – for instance, I tell a Chanukah story, or recently a Purim story. You might say I am raising people's awareness.

Are all of the songs in Yiddish, or do you also sing in Hebrew?

No, I don't sing in Hebrew. I sing in Yiddish because I understand it completely – in a way, it is a compromise between my Jewish father and my German mother. We were a German speaking family, but I am not really fluent in it because my parents had decided to make a Czech out of me. Until recently, I had believed my Czech to be absolutely perfect. My husband proved me wrong, though. For instance, I used to think that listening in on someone was “earsdropping.” Come to think of it, I find my way among people by feeling rather than by words; words don't mean that much to me. My way of acting is like that, too. I am not worried about my character having large blocks of text – I always wait for the moment when I understand who that person is, what her soul is like. Once I get that, the lines are no longer a problem.

Since March last year, you have starred alongside Igor Sebo and Katerina Duskova in the cabaret Long Live the Life, directed by Olga Struskova. Can you tell us more about this production?

It is a collection of scenes, sketches and songs from Czech and German cabarets staged in the Terezin concentration camp during WW II. The title comes from the Svenk cabaret Long Live the Life. The songs and dialogs are in both Czech and German, just as it was in real Terezin where a multilingual company of people was forced to share a very limited space. At the same time, it reflects the Czech-German-Jewish society in pre-war Prague. The author of this version is Kobi Luria, a native Israeli musicologist who had repeatedly met with the witnesses and reconstructed the whole cabaret based on their recollections. We opened at the Na pradle Theatre in Prague and most of our recent performances have been at the Vikadlo Theatre in Prague's Vinohrady quarter. Coincidentally, I used to know both of the ladies who had performed in the original Terezin cabaret. I met Vava Schon when she would visit here after the 1989 Velvet Revolution and I gave literary evenings reading from her book “I Wanted to Be an Actress.” But I got to know the other lady, Kamila Rosenbaum, more personally. Before the war, Kamila Rosenbaum had worked as a choreographer for the famous V+W (Voskovec and Werich); she then went through Terezin, survived and married Mr. Guth after the war. They had two daughters, both of whom later emigrated. I knew Kamila Rosenbaum very well, and I loved her dearly. I would even come to discuss my problems with her. She was one of the personalities who had the greatest influence upon my life. Anytime I think of the cabaret, I also think about her as a close friend. We were so close that she even substituted for my mum in some ways. When I studied the part, I spent quite some time pondering what the play was about... You see, I believe that the most important thing is to be able to put it in one simple sentence. I summed it up as: Living your life without self-pity. That is the credo of this play, which has transcended until the present day. It would be wonderful if one could handle all pain, worries and problems without self-pity, wouldn't it. And they did it, even in times that were so horrible.

Irena Douskova

2002 Long Live the Life

Long Live the Life cabaret

A cabaret

From a review, November 2002:
... The Czech version of the ghetto-revue Long Live the Life is subtitled “The Lost Talents Club,” commemorating all Terezin artists who were struggling in the face of hardship, yet were able to create unusual cultural values ... The show was received very warmly by the audiences...

From a review, 2003:
... We met at the Vinohrady Café Theatre to see the cabaret show Long Live the Life. The full house watched scenes and songs that had once been staged at the Terezin ghetto. I could not help thinking about how I would have reacted: Would I have been strong enough to laugh as they had? This was an invaluable opportunity to appreciate the performance of present-day actors and to take off our hats to the strength of the protagonists back then...

     
B. Sir

2000 – 2002 Nunsense II

Nunsense II

From a review, February 14, 2000:
...At the end of the opening night of the famed musical Nunsense II, the audience rewarded the team of director Miroslav Hanus with more than twenty minutes of applause... The sequel certainly does not just live off the first part...

From a review, February 18, 2000:
... The quintet of ladies run a wide gamut of musical acting – they act, sing and dance with enormous energy and vigour. Hana Frejkova as Mother Superior is superb – not only in her monologue On my brother 's burnt ass , but she is also an excellent singer...


2000 Songs in Yiddish – Prager Tandlmarkt

Between 2000 and 2003, Hana Frejkova had been singing with Prager Tandlmarkt. In 2000, she recorded a CD with the group, entitled Prager Tandlmarkt .

Prager Tandlmarkt was established as a group of musicians with close affinity to Jewish culture and many years of experience in playing this kind of music. It has undergone many changes, both in cast and number of players. The selection of instruments is based on the traditional klezmer concept (violin, clarinet, contrabass, accordion), complemented by modern instruments. Since 2002, the group has given concerts under the direction of Zdenek Zelba (violin) with a clarinet, accordion, guitar and contrabass, with Hana Frejkova singing the lyrics in Yiddish.

Hana Frejková with group

The group performs a repertoire of Jewish songs, arranged by Z. Zelba. Many of the songs are traditional, most of them from the turn of the 19 th and 20 th centuries; the authors of some have long been forgotten. The songs talk about the hardships as well as the joys of the Jewish people, and have their own unique history. Herrman Jablokoff, the author of Papirosn , for instance, wrote this song during the civil war in Odessa, then left for Turkey and was never heard of since. Dortn, Dortn is a love song but it reportedly became the anthem of the Soviet partisans during WW II, among whom were many Jews.

Instruments & Vocals: H. Frejkova – vocals; Z. Zelba – violin; M. Kostiuk – clarinet; M. Hromek – guitar; P. Dreser – accordion; M. Zelenka – contrabass.

From a review, Musical Scene:
... Hana Frejkova has been well-known to chanson lovers , but this collection of twelve songs gives the listeners a unique opportunity to appreciate the richness of her expression, her fine feel for nuances between genres and, above all, her supreme musicality...

     
Jan Smolik

1999 – 2003 The Child Behind the Eyes

Between 1999 and 2003, Hana Frejkova starred in The Child Behind the Eyes by Israeli playwright Nava Semel. In the monodrama directed by Olga Struskova, she played a mother who is preparing her son suffering from Down syndrome for his first day at school and recaps her life with him.

From a review:
... In the end of the show, we realize that what these perpetual children need is love and understanding. The strong emotional experience is accentuated by the excellent performance of Hana Frejkova , supported by the talented Tomas Tkalcovsky in the part of Jotam, with whom he shares the same destiny...

The Child Behind the Eyes

1998 Blunder

Blunder

1998 – 2002 Nunsense I

Nunsense I

An award-winning musical by Dan Goggin

From a review, June 15, 1998:
...Five actresses act, sing and dance in this “charity show on the occasion of honouring the memory of our recently deceased sisters,” full of kind – and sometimes rather dark – humour. Hana Frejkova as Reverend Mother Mary Regina is fabulous (she excels in her hilarious monologue)...

     
Jiri A. Svoboda

From a review, June 18, 1998:
...Full house at opening night – that does not happen too often in the town of Pribram. It is as if the audience had the premonition that this was going to be a real treat... The scenes are vivacious, witty and have the necessary flair. Everything is in constant motion, the actresses do a great job using the whole stage; all dance numbers have been choreographed and rehearsed flawlessly...

MF Dnes , June 25, 1998:
... The audience applauded for nearly half an hour and there were twenty curtain-calls. All subsequent performances met with a keen interest of the theatregoers. None of the recent productions can boast of having such attendance.

From a review, June 29, 1998:
The ensemble has never had such audiences, and vice versa – the Pribram theatre house has never treated its audience to such a show. All in all, twenty curtain-calls and almost thirty minutes of bowing, encores, euphoria, outbursts of spontaneous laughter and nearly frenetic applause – that is the resume of the opening night on Thursday...

    
Z. Brozova

1996 – 1998 Just Another Blasted Love Song

Similar to Enola (1995), a play commemorating the 50 th anniversary of the end of WW II, Just Another Blasted Love Song by Mark Corner was a bilingual production.

From a review:
... There are several English-language theatre groups in Prague, but only few Czechs seem to know about them. Strangely enough, we are sorry for our multicultural past to be long gone, but, at the same time, we are oblivious of the multitude of spontaneous and very unusual cultural activities of our English-speaking fellow citizens.

This thought must inevitably occur to anyone who has seen the new production of the bilingual theatre group EXPOSURE, staged in the cellar of the Labyrinth Studio. JUST ANOTHER BLASTED LOVE SONG was written by Mark Corner, an Englishman living in Prague for the past four years, and directed by his fellow countryman Michael Halstead. This is the first original play in a long time that takes place in a Czech environment and addresses a specific audience familiar with the context.

The plot centres on a love story between a book-loving Englishman and a practical Czech girl trying to perfect her English. When they get more intimate, they find out that they are further apart than ever, because understanding language does not necessarily mean understanding people. What a topic!

The central couple is complemented by an elderly landlady, whom all believe not to speak English (a clever theatrical trick), but who eventually unveils her mysterious past, offering the hero an unexpected alternative for his own life.

The congenial casualness of the easy-flowing dialogs is reflected in the acting of the two lead actors, Christopher Cowley and Marketa Atanasova. Hana Frejkova in the well-written and dramatic part of the landlady cannot hide her ample experience as a professional actress. The audiences have been very responsive to the play, accepting it without bias.

A good command of English is preferable (eighty per cent of the dialog is in English), but is not necessary to grasp the message of the play.

Frantisek Knopp

Just another blasted love song

1996 Diner

Diner

In 1996, Hana Frejkova played one of the leading parts in A. R. Gurney's Diner , directed by Mary Angiolillo.

Dobry vecernik wrote:
The play is highly demanding on the actors. In the individual anecdote-like sketches, each of the five actors appears in an absolutely different role – from children to old people. Alongside young generation entrants star the accomplished actors Milos Vavra and Hana Frejkova.

1988 Oh, Great Buddha, Help Them!

From a review, Scene , 1988:
... Recently, one such sprout of the Prague theatre periphery burgeoned at the Delta Culture Centre ... yielding fruit that I cannot help characterizing as a manifold and versatile FEAT ... I see the versatility of it in how far-reaching its impact is. It is not just art; the way it came into being, its very existence, its reverberations and its artistic message make it quite significant in terms of practical production and economic issues, audience-artist sociological insight as well as political and moral aspects.

From the play ... during the fatherly speeches of Klepl's Brother Ma, watching his kind smile that can turn deadly serious in a twinkle, we get the distinct feeling that this concentration camp is indeed special ... Apart from the thoroughly coherent Brother La, whom J. Sypal portrays as a rationally fanatic “great theorist and practician,” there is also Brother Ta, played by D. Matasek, whose poker face is unfathomable, making the comrades give in to the intrigues easily.

In the absence of longer sections, the characters of the prisoners do not give much room for the actors to ‘show off'; everybody is on stage most of the time, but the scenes as such are very short. H. Frejkova, however, is remarkable in her role, which is full of contradictions, combining two characters from the original text – the mother with a child and the primitive, animal-like Tub. Frejkova is excellent in both parts. Her songs are endowed with irresistible humour , so needed to lighten the load of the play; as Tub, she paints a picture of an inhuman person perfectly fitting the inhuman system.

... Prague is hosting yet another theatre production that stands out both artistically and socially, as a civic act. Kazantsev's OH, GREAT BUDDHA, HELP THEM! premières in Czechoslovakia under the direction of Jan Uhrin.

     
Petr Pavlovsky

Oh, Great Buddha, Help Them!
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