Czechomania was the groups most ambitious project to date. It was devised on 28 March 1994 at a meeting of Smedley, Jo Cox, Cy Bartlett, Stuart Croskell and Mac McCausland. The idea was to do a show. A musical. Bring together Brits and Czechs. Get them to create it. Get European funding for it. Home host the project in Bridgwater during the Summer, tour it, film it, take it to the Czech Republic. Smedley took on the role of producer and musical director, Jo Cox as Director. Gareth Beasley arrived out of the blue and wanted to be part of it so was accepted as co-director. Off we went…
April 14 During Smedley’s trip to Ceske Budejovice he auditions Jitka Charyparova. In a strip club. She gets the lead role.
In July we needed to audition the final Czechs. They had virtually been agreed with our contacts over there. Jana Hubena had got the Gabriel brothers Stan and Pavel -top folk violinists, to join. Eva Kordova had got us Martin Vorisek from Ceske Budejovice, a great sax player, plus 2 actresses from her region, Lenka Mikulova and Irena Rejskova. But we needed to drive over and see them.
Thur 12 July Smedley has a collision with a runaway cow which destroys his skoda 120 which he was going to drive to Czech in next day. The NFU pays for a brand new replacement. result!
Fri 13 July Smedley, Jo Cox and Gareth Beasley head off across Europe travelling Ramsgate to Dunkirk and then through the night.
14-15 July were spent in Prague. So tired, at one point sleeping under the tables at a Prague disco in Wenceslaus square
16-17-18 July stayed in Uherske Hradiste. In fact at Antonins mountain top Chata where we planned out the show, the programme of rehearsals and the whole tour. We also managed to walk down the valley to the ‘Czech Slovak festival one evening where Jo managed to eat a fish head. Another night we walked through the forest to the only pub on the mountain and so high was it that we walked back down into the rain cloud.
19-20 july we visited Ceske Budejovice to interview the others. Nearly missed Irena Rejskova due to a timing slip. Tanya Jo Wesker, the daughter of playwright Arnold ‘chips with everything’ Wesker came chasing after us and gave us a mouthful. We simply apologised and took Irena on.
21-22 July we drove back to Bridgwater via Ostend
Sun Aug 7 the Czechomania project starts. I took Cathy with me to London and collected the Czechs from Victoria coach station . They’d crossed europe by bus then drove to Somerset where we home hosted them all.
Tue 9 Aug -Jo Cox had a party and everyone met for the first time including the English actors – Zora Blance, Ali Cox, Sam Jones and Nick Osbourne
Wed 10 Aug rehearsals start. Gareth is directing and has brought his friend Justin Edwards from Manchester University with him. Justin is the male lead and destined to become a succesful actor and comedian.
Thur 11 Aug a daily routine of rehearsals at the ‘Friends Meeting House’ in Friarn street . This is the Quaker hall and also Blake Dramas rehearsal room
12-13-14-15-16-15-18-19 Aug the show is thrashed out and rehearsed. Songs are written by Brian Smedley, Matt Bartlett and Mac McCausland. To raise extra money the group do some shows showcasing their talents
Sat 20 Aug The group performs at the Olde Cottage Inn at Lynbridge. It becomes clear that the highlights are the Moravian fiddle playing of Stan and Pavel, the comedy folk singing of Justin and the Bohemian folk singing of the 3 Czech girls
Sun 21 Aug Stan and Pavel play in Blake Gardens and in the evening the whole ensemble perform in a pub in Stoke Sub Hamdon-Stans ‘czardas’ is a winner
Tues 23 Aug Mayor Briscombe gives the Czechs a lunchtime reception
Wed 24 Aug Czechs agree to visit Hinkley Point in return for sponsorship. They aren’t happy and refuse to smile ion the photo shoot.
Thur 25 Aug The ensemble plays in Dulverton Town Hall at their festival. Mac is also singing with the group.
Sat 27 Aug the group plays at the Quantock Gateway
Sun 28 Aug Czechs visit Minehead and play at Hana Lotts garden party
Tues 30 Aug the rehearsing is over and it;s technical rehearsal at the Art centre
Wed 31 Aug it’s dress rehearsal night and it’s looking good
Thur 1 Sept Opening night at the Art Centre and it goes well. Antonin also turns up from UH and makes an additional donation.
Fri 2 Sept Second night. Again it’s a success. There’s a big party at Matthews. Romance blossoms…Gareth and Jitka get it together as do Matt and Lenka
Wed 7 Sept The group do the show a third time but in Pencoed, South Wales at the Club Waldsassen
Thurs 8 Sep The group leaves by minibus for the Czech republic. Brian, Nick and Jo as drivers. Ali, Zora, Sam, Justin, Jitka, Gareth, Irena and Martin. (Pavel and Stan get the coach back)
Fri 9 Sept crossing by Dunkirk the group reaches Prague non stop by 1830 staying 2 nights
Sun 11 Sep the troupe arrives in Uherske Hradiste and stay 3 nights.
Tues 13 Sept ‘Czechomania’ is performed at Kino Mir (at 10am) but it’s so popular we repeat it for a 2nd house
Wed 14 Sep headed off to Ceske Budejovice
Thurs 15 Sep performed the show again at ‘Mala Scena’. Did it twice. Once in the morning and once in the evening. Eva Kordova had organised everything. The show is over and the group goes for a party afterwards which is also on film.
Fri 16 Sept Parting was sad. There were tears. Gareth cried all the way to the border. Stopping in Koln we bumped into 2 girls Justin knew by chance and all went to an Irish bar. We were back.
Sat 17 Sept we were back home and the biggest most adventurous project we ever undertook was over.