DEADTOWN (The Forman Brothers’ Wild West Show)

It’s the beginning of the twentieth century and a conjuror, illusionist, and owner of a cheap cabaret is living out his dreams in magical Prague. He is obsessed with the technical miracles of his times: film, photography, and the husky sound of the phonograph. Yet his favourite fantasies are those of riding across the plains of Arizona, drinking with weather-beaten gunslingers at a saloon and holding wild and beautiful women in his arms. At least that’s the image he had gleaned from the Wild West silent westerns and yellowed photographs telling stories of a faraway land. And because his life is a constant balancing act between illusion and reality, it is not difficult for him to embark on a journey into the dream world.

After ten years, the Forman Brothers Theatre is embarking on a new adventure. In our nomadic life we have sailed the seas, wandered through opera houses, travelled with a ragtag troupe or made our living chasing hens and pigs around a wooden shack.

Our new expedition is heading west… to the Wild West. Into a time that has been genuinely cap-tured only in black and white photographs and is as unforgiving to strangers as the turbulent sea is to theatre-makers setting sail from the centre of Europe.

Apart from old photographs, our image of the Wild West was shaped by silent western films and slapstick comedies. As naïve children from a small Czech town, we can easily believe that the Wild West of the turn of the century looked black and white or coloured in soft shades of

sepia. And if we happen to have lost this idea by now, that imperfect image still remains close to our theatrical vision.

Thus, this new performance by the Forman Brothers Theatre oscillates between theatre and silent film.

A few years ago, a poor travelling troupe couldn’t have even dreamt of such a combination. But time marches on and new technologies are developing at an even faster pace and are becoming availa-ble to us as well. To achieve the proper and most compelling illusion, we have also constructed a new theatre tent.

Like in our previous shows, we are trying to make use of this space in all its dimensions. Thanks to the imagination and work of designers who have been collaborating with us for such a long time, we are also striving to bring puppets, masks or painted sets to the play as well.

Naturally, this is connected with distinct acting, subtle light moods, film animations, live and recorded music or rich foley effects – all combined into images and atmospheres supporting the story and its message.

The beginning of the 20th century was a time of new technological miracles. In addition to moving pictures, there was also the photographic apparatus, phonograph or the first record players. It was often just a funfair amusement – entertainment that many people felt attracted to but scared others. No wonder the owner of a dubious Prague cabaret, a conjurer and illusionist, a person for whom the border between imagination and reality is not always clear, is absolutely enthralled by these zany novelties. A man obsessed with a passion for the world of the Wild West, dreaming of the rough life of gunslingers, the desolate Arizona desert and exotic beauties bring his fantasies even closer to life thanks to these inventions. And as his business in such a remote place as the narrow streets of Prague is not exactly thriving, he decides to turn his dream into a new adventure – to take specta-tors on a journey where illusions become a new reality.

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About the company

For twenty five years now, the Forman Brothers’ Theatre has been one of the most original artistic groups in Czech theatre. However, with its unconventional approach, working methods and poetics, it still wholly stands apart from the crowd. In addition to brothers Matěj and Petr Forman and a few other permanent members, a new team is put together for each performance, bringing in new energy and skills.

The Forman Brothers’ Theatre doesn’t have its own building or a permanent stage. It creates its performances in specific locations, such as the Mystery Boat or different types of theatre tents. This accounts for the nomadic way of life that the members of the theatre lead. With their projects, they tour not only the Czech Republic, but the whole of Europe (or the USA and Mexico), where they have already staged thousands of shows. They often travel to very prestigious venues and festivals, winning them high esteem. Each new performance is not only expected, but is born in coproduction with prominent theatre partners in France or Belgium. This is what makes the Forman Brothers’ Theatre so very unique in the Czech theatre environment.

Therefore, they naturally and relentlessly spread the good name of Czech culture and the power of its theatre, fine art and puppetry tradition on their travels. The other line of the Forman Brothers’ Theatre creative work includes projects made for other theatres. This mainly concerns the Prague National Theatre, where several of their opera productions have been successfully staged. Nevertheless, their work for the Husa na Provázku Theatre or Minor Theatre have been important as well.

In the performance of Deadtown, which is now being prepared, the ensemble is striving yet again to move forward in their work and is enjoying the new possibilities that have arisen. Their traditional “handicraft” in using puppets or other strong visual elements and their continuation in a long tradition is complemented by a strong film component with animation at its core. Animation has always been a strength of Czech film making and is a tradition that the authors espouse.

Today, there are several projects combining film and theatre, but Deadtown incorporates film images not only as a background or illustration, but as a live setting that, when connected with an actor, creates its own magic reality similar to the world of Karel Zeman’s films.

As in other Forman Brothers’ Theatre projects, the authors attempt once more to cross routine boundaries and find a new world (Journey to the New World is actually the secondary title of the performance, but it is a nostalgic journey; one that travels into the times when film was sepia coloured). Yet at the same time, the Forman Brothers Theatre makes sure not to forget about the audience, taking emotions, message and a strong experience into consideration.

This performance, like the others, will see the spectators entering more than just a theatre; they will step into an original world created especially for the performance. And when the show is over, they can step onto the stage and spend the rest of the night with the actors and other theatre members at the bar, which during the performance is only reserved for its fictitious characters. Through this moment of shared community, the principal sense of the whole project will be fulfilled.


Theatre / company

Forman Brothers Theatre / Divadlo bratří Formanů

Czech title

DEADTOWN (The Forman Brothers’ Wild West Show)


Ivan Arsenjev, Petr Forman


Petr Forman


Veronika Švábová, Marek Zelinka and collective


Music and songs: Marko Ivanovič, Jarda Traband Svoboda; La Lettera di Lincoln - Ennio Morricone - arrangement: Jan Hasenöhrl, in cooperation with Czech National Symphony Orchestra


Petr Forman, Veronika Švábová, Marek Zelinka, Jacques Laganache, Daniela Voráčková/Simona Babčáková, Josefína Voverková, Vojta Švejda/Jiří Kniha, Michael Vodenka/Miroslav Kochánek, Ivan ”Zobák” Pelikán, Petr “Goro” Horký, Josef Sodomka/Ivan Arsenjev, Phil

Stage design

Josef Sodomka, Matěj Forman Tent interior design: Matěj Forman Animation, film image: Josef Lepša Camera: Jaromír Kačer Visual postproduction: i/o post Projection technology: Jan Hrdlička, Jiří Wild (3dsense)

Costume design

Andrea Sodomková

Lighting design

Light design: Louise Gibaud, Petr Forman Light concept: Igor Schmidt, Petr ‘Goro’ Horký, Petr Forman

Sound design

Sound effects and foley sounds: Michal Holubec, Marek Poledna (Studio Bystrouška) Sound concept: Philippe Leforestier, Philippe Tivilier

Length of the performance

90 minutes

Stage description

own wooden tent

Number of travelling persons



No language barrier


Adult , Children


Pavla Kormošová