Vaclav Havel’s Comeback Delayed by Casting???Date: 30 August 2007
The world premiere of Odchazeni (Leaving), the first new play by Vaclav Havel in nearly 20 years, has been postponed after the Czech playwright and former president’s decision to withdraw it from Prague’s National Theatre for its refusal to cast his actress-wife Dagmar Havlova in the production.
Havel’s earlier plays – which include The Garden Party, The Memorandum, The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, Guardian Angel, Protest, Temptation, Large desolato, Redevelopment, a version of The Beggar’s Opera and, his last piece, 1988’s Tomorrow - were banned under communism. He gave up writing for dissident politics, leading the Velvet Revolution of 1989 then going on to become the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic, a post he stepped down from in 2003.
Inspired by King Lear and his own experiences, Odchazeni, written during a five-month visit to Washington DC in 2005, revolves around a former senior politician and his loss of power. Havel told the Lidove Noviny newspaper that his wife provided the motivation for writing the play: “She was present when I was writing it in the US, she lived (the presidency) alongside me, I wrote it for her, I imagined her being in it. We wanted to return to the theatre together.”
The National Theatre says it is against its policy to cast guest actors in productions, though it hopes to resume negotiations with Havel. Meanwhile, the playwright is reportedly entertaining offers from other theatres, including Divadlo na Zabradli (Theatre on the Balustrade), where he once worked as a stagehand.