The art of darkness

By Ewa Manthey Source:Global Times Published: 2013-8-8 18:13:01

The Czech theater ensemble Black Light Theatre Srnec is returning to Shanghai this month with their newest show, The Flying Bicycle.

The story of The Flying Bicycle is set at the turn of the century. It tells the tale of a young inventor who is so fascinated with the wings of birds that he is obsessed with the idea of creating a flying bicycle. After many failed attempts, he falls in love with a girl and discovers that only love can defy gravity.

The theatrical performance style of black light theatre is characterized by the use of a "black box" theater space. This style has become a specialty of theaters in the Czech capital of Prague. The technique uses black curtains, a darkened stage, and "black lighting" (UV light), paired with fluorescent costumes in order to create visual illusions.

Scenes from <em>The Flying Bicycle</em> Photos: IC

Scenes from The Flying Bicycle Photo: IC


"Black light theater is a world of imagination where everything is possible," said Jiri Aster Srnec, producer and director of Srnec Productions. "We are able to show the world in an unusual way. Impossible is possible. Some things are possible only in a black cabinet."

The black cabinet was used in performances in ancient China, and later on was used by magicians, in cinema and on stage. In black light theater, black-costumed actors hold props against a black background and thus cannot be seen by the audience. The viewers get an illusion that the objects move themselves.

Srnec's father, Jiri Srnec, pioneered modern black light theater with his company. He defined Black Light Theatre as "a celebration of human fantasy and dreams, in contrast with today's hasty world."

"My father is a bottomless source of inspiration and imagination," Aster Srnec said. "He is inspired by the world where we all live. That is maybe why his performances are so well appreciated by audiences all around the world."

Scenes from <em>The Flying Bicycle</em> Photos: IC

Scenes from The Flying Bicycle Photo: IC


"We are showing a surrealistic world where we feel so good," said Aster Srnec. "We present objects as living beings which have their own feelings and emotions. Our performances mostly present funny worlds of imagination but you can also find parts with deeper hidden meanings."

The Black Light Theatre Srnec, founded in 1961, was the fist black light theater company in the world. Their performances have been seen by more than 5 million spectators in 69 countries around the world, and they have participated in more than 65 international festivals.

After their performance at the international theater festival in Edinburgh in 1962, a review in the Times said that the production "brought back magic to the world's stages."

The invention of the black cabinet was a lucky accident, according to the younger Srnec. "A long time ago my father was directing a short performance with his classmates at a puppet academy," he said. "Girls were carrying a coffin on their shoulders, and they were wearing black shirts, standing in front of a black curtain. Guys were dressed in black and they were holding mugs in their hands. Suddenly it seemed that the objects are floating in the air."

The Black Light Theatre will stage three shows in Shanghai - one matinee and two evening performances at the Shanghai Children's Art Theatre.

Scenes from <em>The Flying Bicycle</em> Photos: IC

Scenes from The Flying Bicycle Photo: IC


Dates: August 9 at 7:15 pm and August 10 at 3:30 pm and 7:15 pm

Venue: Shanghai Children's Art Theatre

Address: 643 Huashan Road


Tickets: 60 yuan to 380 yuan

Email for more information and to book tickets

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater

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