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New Europe

Day One Hundred and Nine: Tatra Mountains to Brno

Turba's mime class 
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At last I get some acting work. At Turba's mime class in Brno. And yes, it is a mask.
Michael Palin - New EuropeThe ride across Slovakia to the Czech border is along good, almost empty four-lane highway through lovely countryside of low hills and modest, heavily wooded gorges, following the east bank of the Váh River to the town of Trencin, with a rugged, rambling castle towering romantically above it. Crossing to the west bank we soon reach one of the newest borders in Europe, established after Slovakia parted from the Czech Republic.

We're now in the land of Southern Moravia, once part of the short-lived but resoundingly named Great Moravian Empire, which those ubiquitous Slav missionaries, Cyril (creator of the Cyrillic 'Russian' script) and Methodius reached way back in the ninth century.

Brno, the capital of Moravia, receives apathetic reviews in most of the guidebooks. Some refer slightingly to its part in the Industrial Revolution, when, boosted by coal reserves and water power from fast-flowing rivers, it earned the sobriquet 'the Manchester of Moravia'.

From a distance it has a striking skyline, dominated by the two tall sharp-spired towers of St Peter's Cathedral and the massive Spilberk Castle. It may be a little lugubrious in the centre, but I find it pleasantly free of tourist crowds, and if you look carefully there are surprises.

One is at the little Seven and a Half Theatre, a small functional space saved from closure by the Brno Art College next door and today the venue for, amongst others, Turba's mime classes. Mime was always popular in Czechoslovakia and Turba was one of its finest practitioners. At the beginning of the 1970s he and others were heavily criticised by the Russians for dealing with things like human isolation and solitude, which were considered unnecessarily negative and contrary to socialist ideals. He refused to change and left Czechoslovakia for Denmark, France and Switzerland. Others agreed to change their material and he doesn't blame them.

'They needed money to eat, to... make theatre, to... write, so they made a thousand compromises in order to come closer to their love.'
Turba's mime class 
click to enlarge 
file size
At last I get some acting work. At Turba's mime class in Brno. And yes, it is a mask.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day One Hundred and Nine: Tatra Mountains to Brno
  • Country/sea: Czech Republic
  • Place: Brno
  • Book page no: 256

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