Black light theater is a popular form of entertainment in Prague. Besides its novel approach to theater, it is also popular with international crowds because the use of physical expression through movement and props can be understood by anyone; enjoying a black light theater performance is not contingent upon knowing any particular language. As you sightsee, especially in the Old Town area, you will run across signs for black light theater.
What Is Black Light Theater?
Black light theater is more than what you might expect at first encounter. While dance, mime, and acrobatic performances do take place under the black light for which this type of theater is named, the show is more technologically and theatrically advanced. The use of fluorescent colors on a black background for costumes and props, as well as varying intensities and positioning of lights, enable black light performers to employ a variety of effects not possible with standard theater. Objects can float, fly, or appear suddenly on stage.
In some cases, a completely black backdrop means that all focus is on actors and props that interact in fantastical ways—for example, clothing might appear to walk by itself or puppets become animated independent of their puppet masters. Multimedia, such as film projections, may also be used within the context of a black light theater show.
The Czech Republic claims that the Czech theater director, Jiří Srnec, is responsible for the establishment of the first black light theater, though other film and theater producers flirted with the use of the technique prior to Srnec founding his theater. Therefore, black light theater is seen as a traditional Czech style of entertainment, though since the first black light theaters were introduced in the latter half of the 20th century, the performance style has spread to other cities and cultures.
Black Light theater isn’t for everyone, and the industry is widely criticized for pulling in tourists with high expectations into poor-quality shows. Czech entrepreneurs have been quick to capitalize on the allure of black light theater productions, and many shows are short, overpriced, and lack plot or talent. Additionally, theater-goers should be warned that not all performances are child-friendly. One popular show, Aspects of Alice, based loosely on the story of Alice in Wonderland, contains a scene during which the actress undresses.
It’s important to read reviews carefully before attending any black light performance, especially if you’re planning on it being a part of a family outing.
Black Light Theaters in Prague
Laterna Magika is one of the better-established black light theaters in Prague. It is a part of the National Theater, and it maintains a tradition of multi-media and black light theater productions for both visitors and locals. However, guest reviews are mixed for Laterna Magika performances, as well—the quality of the production depends upon the show itself; not all Laterna Magika productions offer the same quality of show. In addition, visitors who wish to see a full black light theater show should be informed that Laterna Magika employs a variety of multi-media effects, not only black light effects, during its shows.
Laterna Magika is located on Narodni Street on the Old Town side of Most (Bridge) Legii, south of Charles Bridge.
Image Theater is also a well-known black light theater with productions receiving positive reviews. The theater produces shows that are in keeping with the black light tradition throughout, though, again, quality may vary from show to show. Image Theater is located in Old Town Prague on Pařížská Street.
While some visitors to Prague have reported being astounded by their black light theater experience, no article about this form of Prague entertainment would be complete without a “buyer beware” warning. Due to the unpredictable quality of the shows, it’s best to place seeing a black light theater performance low on your list of things to do in Prague and to only see one of these shows if you check your expectations at the door.