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Samson and Roberto: BaywatchPuppetry performance based on the book series by Ingvar Ambjørnsen, length 50 min

Photo: Urška Boljkovac
The puppet show Samson & Roberto: Baywatch is based on the adaptation of two books from the series Samson & Roberto by the Norwegian writer Ingvar Ambjørnsen, The Inheritance of Uncle Rin-Tin-Tei (Arven etter onkel Rin-Tin-Tei) and Fiery Friends (Krakilske kamerater), which are also on the list of recommended books for the Slovenian Reading Badge.

“This is a place for all eccentrics, outcasts and dreamers: the utopic land of quirky characters and lonely souls, where life is characterised by the spirit of friendship, acceptance and camaraderie. Everyone is welcome at the Baywatch.”

In an inherited boarding house called Baywatch, Samson the dog and Roberto the cat create a utopian community of social outcasts and dreamers. The main protagonists are animal characters—in addition to Samson and Roberto, the storyline features Greta the badger, Oli the otter, Miss Riddleberg the goose teacher and von Struts the stork. When running, maintaining and caring for the boarding house in the fjord, the main characters encounter a variety of guests and situations that provide the basis for different reflections about what is considered normal in society, what is acceptable, what is problematic and how being different can be positive.

Through the adventures that accompany the managing of the boarding house, the theme of co-existence in human society is explored, i.e. the current social issues that arise from living in a community, encompassing financial issues (poverty and inheritance, taxes, forms of work compensation, etc.), accessibility (how to provide accommodation for the fish guest), solidarity (vegetarianism to prevent guests from eating each other), hierarchies and social exclusion (fair division of work, how to determine the value of work and skills), and media buzz or, more precisely, influencer publicity (sensationalist coverage by a rat influencer, a star-studded band generating goat and moose fanbases, etc.). The collision of the outside world and the Baywatch highlights the mutual acceptance of its inhabitants, their empathy and sincerity, as well as their shamelessness, wit and mischievousness. Adopting a stance of non-judgemental openness, we can observe contrasts such as laziness and hyperactivity, dreaminess and pragmatism, a caring nature and an authoritative demeanour, deliberation and impulsivity. All these traits and explorations of situations are described in a fast-paced commentary style, incorporating wit and deriving from a clear premise of disparity between the characters and the world around them. Without a clear moral message in the conclusion, the story offers the less privileged and marginalised characters a space to exist, relate and express themselves. 

Opening: 4 April 2024, Šentjakob Stage LGL

Ingvar Ambjørnsen (1956, Norway) is one of Norway’s most important and popular contemporary writers. He is referred to as the rock star of Norwegian literature: his works have been adapted into screen versions on different occasions and he has won several national literary awards. In his works, he always takes the side of the outcasts and the marginalised, boldly addressing social issues ranging from mental health, drug abuse and youth crime to the systemic problems at the level of the state. His works are mostly targeted at an adult audience; apart from another young adult novel, the Samson & Roberto series is his only work for younger audiences. Even in Samson & Roberto, Ambjørnsen draws attention to themes such as poverty, social exclusion, peculiar personality traits and psychological characteristics, while also offering a critique of the media and institutions.

Nika Bezeljak (1986) is a theatre artist currently living and working in Maribor. In 2013 she graduated in theatre directing from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) at the University of Ljubljana. As a director, she regularly collaborates with both Slovenian national puppet theatres (in Maribor and Ljubljana) and NGO producers. She has created more than 15 performances, for which she has received awards, including: Is It Really the End? (authorial project, Moment Maribor and Maribor Puppet Theatre, 2022); Timbuktu, Timbuktu (Peter Svetina, Ljubljana Puppet Theatre, 2022);Tunes from Mousedale Dunes (Anja Štefan, Maribor Puppet Theatre, 2021); White Camel (based on the themes from a documentary film, Maribor Puppet Theatre, 2017); Little Owl on a Pole (Svetlana Makarovič, Nika Bezeljak, Laura Zafred and Cultural Institute KULT, 2015). In addition, she participates in other artistic projects, collaborations and educational projects promoting art and culture. As a curator and producer, she is also involved in the GT22 Creative Laboratory, Moment Theatre and its international festival Crossings, Trigger Platform and Public Fund for Cultural Activities of Slovenia (JSKD).

Maša Radi Buh (1998) is a self-employed cultural worker in the field of contemporary performance practices. As a critic she has been published in various publications and media, including the Slovenian newspapers Deloand Dnevnik, portals Kritika (Review) and Neodvisni (The Independent), the performing arts journal Maska, the EU Contemporary Puppetry Critical Platform (ECPCP) and the journal of performing arts theory Amfiteater. She is the co-editor of the anthology What’s So Small Here? (Emanat) dedicated to the methodologies of notating small arts and the editor-in-chief of the Neodvisni portal. She is interested in different forms of collective practices; together with Varja Hrvatin and Jakob Ribič she co-authored the Territory of Theatre programme on Radio Študent; moreover, as part of the transnational collective systering, she has explored feminist and queer theoretical writings through the eponymous publication and collective’s workshops on precarity. In recent years, she has been active as a practical dramaturg, participating in Jan Rozman’s project screamage(Emanat, 2023) and the show Is It Really the End? (Moment Maribor and Maribor Puppet Theatre, 2022). In the period 2022–2027 she was the selector for the Zlata paličica (Golden Wand) platform, a reference database of quality productions for children and youth.

Enej Gala (1990) completed his BA in Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice, where in 2015 he also finished his MA studies. In 2014, he participated in an exchange programme at the William De Kooning Academy (WDKA) in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and in 2023 he graduated from the Royal Academy Schools Postgraduate Programme in London. 

His artistic practice is based on an acute awareness of thinking through creating, a process concentrated on grasping the experience of otherness. He uses puppetry both as a tool that reveals its tricks, counterintuitively enhancing their magic, and as a lens to focus on materials as entities, expanding their potential by exposing and building on their intrinsic qualities. In 2017, he had his first encounter with set design as part of the creators behind the performance White Camel, which was directed by Nika Bezeljak and produced by the Maribor Puppet Theatre. In recent years, he has collaborated with the creators of -TNK- (Theatre on the Border), contributing in 2020, among others, to the set design and video for the online performance Charms of Harms

In 2023, he participated in several residencies, including Vettori; La Contrada Theatre, Trieste; Alchemilla, Bologna, alongside curator Enrico Camprini; and Almanac, Torino, where he led workshops with children from different vulnerable groups in collaboration with the organisations Acmos and Area Onlus. His recent solo exhibitions include: Saving Chewing Gums from a Mammoth’s Hair (TJ Boulting gallery, London, 2023), Nevereverevereverevereverever learn (A plus A Gallery, Venice, 2022), Through the Eye of a Needle (curated by Ajda Kocutar, Kino Šiška 2022), Predatorʼs Turn (Nova Gorica City Gallery 2020), On the Shoulders of Dwarfs (Kresija Gallery, Ljubljana 2020), project MONO (Localedue, Bologna, 2019). 

Nina Čehovin, after completing her undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Design, University of Ljubljana, graduated from the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT)at the University of Ljubljana, obtaining a master’s degree in Scene Design with her thesis Costumes at Betajnova. Already during her studies, she collaborated on theatre, film and television projects, and from 2018 onwards, she has been credited as costume designer for productions by AGRFT, the Slovene National Theatre Drama Ljubljana (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Wives in Dough), the APT in Novo mesto (Bleak Days, Wonderful Times), the Koper Theatre and the Slovene National Theatre Nova Gorica (The Pitchfork), the Slovenian City Theatre Celje (Assault) and the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre (Timbuktu Timbuktu, based on a picture book of short stories and poems by Peter Svetina). In addition, she has also designed costumes for productions performed on non-institutional stages (Rosa, a production by the Bodice Collective). She has received several awards for her work: the Prešeren Prize for Students for her costume design in the performanceOedipus the King (directed by Jan Krmelj, AGRFT, 2016), and the AGRFT Goldilocks Awards for costume design in the performances Odets (directed by Maša Pelko, AGRFT, 2017) and The Winter’s Tale (directed by Maša Pelko, AGRFT, 2018) as well as in the short film Washed out (dir. M. Likar, AGRFT, 2018). At the 53th edition of the Week of Slovenian Drama, the performance Wives in Dough (directed by Živa Bizovičar, SNT Drama Ljubljana, 2022) received the Šeligo Award for best production. Moreover, this same performance received the Borštnik Award for the comprehensive treatment of the performance material, presented at the 58th edition of the Maribor Theatre Festival, and the Association of Theatre Critics and Researchers of Slovenia Award for best production of 2022.

Tomi Novak, musician and sound designer, lives and works in the border region of Goriška. He heads the cultural-artistic association Zvočni izviri (Sound Springs), which is the organiser of the Brda contemporary music festival. In addition, he is a member of the groups Kombo C and Pogum pogumnih (Courage of the courageous), covering the role of instrumentalist and sound designer for the bands’ albums. His music activity is also linked to the Slovenian National Theatre of Nova Gorica, for which he has composed the music for the plays August (based on Hermann Hesse’s work) and Charms of Harms (based on Danilo Harms’ themes). He is also the founder and member of the musical collective Grunt (Homestead), which is currently engaged in the performance Beton7 (Concrete7).

Lucija Trobec graduated in 2019 in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana, under the supervision of Asst. Prof. Dr Gašper Troha, with a thesis titled The Youth and Theatre: The role of theatre when growing up and the importance of active involvement of the youth in professional plays; a study based on Brainstorm and The Right to Be Human. She is currently studying theatre directing under the mentorship of Prof. Jernej Lorencij and Asst. Prof. Branko Jordan at the Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) at the University of Ljubljana. In her hometown, she leads the theatre group Theatro Šentjošt, regularly creating children’s and youth performances, as well as other performative and literary events. During her studies, she assisted in the production of the performance Tales of Our Childhood (directed by Jernej Lorenci) and became co-editor of the Academy’s blog. In 2023, she directed the performance The Tenth Daughteras part of the BiTeater programme section for the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre.

Adaptation: Nika Bezeljak, Maša Radi Buh
Author of novels Samson & Roberto: The Inheritance of Uncle Rin-Tin-Tei and Samson & Roberto: Fiery Friends: Ingvar Ambjørnsen
Translator of the novels: Marija Zlatnar Moe
Director: Nika Bezeljak
Dramaturge: Maša Radi Buh
Visual designer and set design: Enej Gala
Costume designer: Nina Čehovin
Music: Tomi Novak
Lyrics for song Fiery Friends by Aja Kobe: Aja Kobe
Language consultant: Maja Cerar
Lighting designer: Kristjan Vidner
Set design assistant: Lucija Trobec
Puppet engineer: Zala Kalan
Musicians: Grunt (Metka Knap, Anton Lorenzutti, Timi Vremec, Tomi Novak)
Choreography assistant: Sebastjan Starič
Cast: Miha Arh, Voranc Boh, Aja Kobe, Maja Kunšič, Iztok Lužar, Martin Mlakar
Stage manager and sound designer: Slaviša Stojanović
Producer: Alja Cerar Mihajlović
Lighting technician: Kristjan Vidner
Set technician: Kemal Vrabac Kordiš
LGL workshops manager: Zoran Srdić
Set, puppets and costumes production: Zala Kalan, David Klemenčič, Sandra Birjukov, Marjetka Valjavec, Mateja Šušteršič, Neva Vrba, Uroš Mehle, Enej Gala, Rok Drusany
22.04.2024 at 17:00
Stage: Šentjakobski oder LGL