David Drábek – Aquabelles


David Drábek


Translation from Czech Tihana Hamović

Cover design Dina Radoman




Themes explored by David Drabek in his plays revolve around the critique of globalization, particularly commercial culture, and mass media. Aquabelles is a play that presents intimate themes against the backdrop of social criticism – friendship, midlife crisis, and identity crisis.

The main characters are three former schoolmates whose private lives are falling apart. Their three narrative lines bring forth three conflicts: eccentric Kajetan, despite his commercial job, refuses to reconcile with the shallowness of a life focused on empty entertainment, money, and media fame; cantankerous Pavel remains stuck in the position of a conservative intellectual from the ’80s, rejecting all expressions of consumerism; and lonely Filip seeks to defend himself from a corrupt world by uniting with water as the primal element.

Aquabelles is a confession of the impossibility of living an authentic life in today’s society. It also addresses local, although not exclusively local, issues of coming to terms with the communist past and the threats of developed capitalism. The play also explores the question of male identity in a globalized world. The three main protagonists secretly engage in synchronized swimming, a discipline traditionally associated with women, thus redefining the concept of masculinity and expanding its limited gender understanding.

The drama consists of fifteen relatively independent scenes in which Drabek alternates serious observations of his characters with comic and eccentric statements and behaviors. It can be viewed as a tragicomedy with grotesque, surreal, and absurd elements. As the author himself, one of the most significant contemporary Czech playwrights, states: “My plays are humorous but not cheerful.”

For me, this is a highly sensitive, autobiographical confession about my relationship with two of my closest friends from Olomouc. Whenever it is performed, I fear that it reveals the power of a confession about the pitiful and unhappy masculinity of a thirty-year-old, who tries to resolve his insecurities and ambiguities through artistic swimming. I believe that director Stanley Kubrick is right when he claims that an author needs six key points, six astonishing images that he then connects with bridges. These must be fascinating images that never leave you, just like the scene we have here of male legs rising above the water’s surface. Once you have those key points, the rest fills in and comes together into a complete piece.

David Drabek