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Theatre of the Ancients

Exploring Ibiza’s primitive other world with puppet master Joanna Hruby.

Did the world of the ancients and mythology intrigue you as a child? 

I definitely spent most of my time in my imagination, and stories were my lifeline. On my father’s side of the family my roots go back to Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. As a child I was very much influenced by the dark folklore and fairytales of Eastern Europe.

How did your journey into the world of performance and puppetry begin?

I was always artistic, but when I left school my only interest was in travelling, in seeing the world and absorbing diverse cultures. At 25 I discovered a rare degree course which seemed like the perfect way
to combine my love of visual arts and crafts with storytelling and performance. I was finally on my creative path.

Theatre of the Ancients Ibiza
Joanna’s work combines a passion for ancient folklore and mythology with drama and storytelling

Where did the idea of Theatre of the Ancients come from?

It is the culmination of my artistic skills and interests, combined with my passion for the ancient folklore and mythology that lies beneath all cultures of the world, including Ibiza. In the years before I relocated to Ibiza, when I was living in my native Devon, England, I became very involved with a community of storytellers, artists and performers who were reviving the ancient stories, traditions, rituals and music of England. They were reconnecting with the essence of the land, its ecology and authentic culture. I decided to bring that inspiration, and my artistic skills, with me to Ibiza to form Theatre of the Ancients.

What fascinates you so much about the history of Ibiza?

It has two faces. One of those faces is Ibiza the party island, and the other is what I see as the ‘true’ face of Ibiza, a tiny island steeped in rich ancient traditions, bearing fascinating traces of countless past civilisations including the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Romans and the Moors. My passion is to somehow merge these two different faces into one because at present they are at war with each other, resulting in unspeakable ecological and cultural damage. My ongoing mission is to help people see beyond the island’s ‘false’ mask, and to appreciate its ‘true’ one, therefore coming to respect Ibiza’s authentic cultural heritage.

Theatre of the Ancients Ibiza
Photo: © Enrique Villalonga

Can you talk us through a Theatre of the Ancients performance?

Our performances are diverse, ever-evolving fusions of different theatrical elements. We have six giant two-metre-high puppets representing figures from Ibiza’s ancient mythology and folklore the goddess Tanit, the goddess Demeter, two podencos and two es Vedrà goats and a range of different masked characters. We combine these different puppet and mask characters with spoken word, visual storytelling, ritual, music and ceremony to create mini-performances that are steeped in a strange, mystical enchantment. Our work ranges from walkabout theatre interacting with the public at various events, to specially commissioned narrative performances.

As Ibiza continues to embrace mass tourism, how can we preserve the values of our ancient predecessors?

I would prefer to use my work to inspire rather than to preach, but I do believe that to really protect and cherish the soul of this island we need to go beyond Ibiza’s superficial mask, and get beneath the surface. Take an active interest in the inner realms of the island, and not just its gorgeous beaches. Learn about its stories and history, explore its lush rural landscapes and architecture, and try to make a direct connection to local Ibicenco culture. Hopefully by better understanding the true cultural identity of this island, we as foreigners will take better care of it.


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