First play after retirement a success for former Czech president

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The first play written by former Czech president Václav Havel after his presidential retirement saw a great success at its first showing outside of the Czech Republic. Leaving was staged by the London Orange Tree Theatre starting on September 20.

The audience in the sold-out theatre reacted spontaneously to the play’s text and to Havel’s own notes. The playwright commented his play and characters' acts through his pre-recorded words. He was not present at the premiere himself, his visit is expected on Friday, September 26.

Václav Havel

Geoffrey Bevers played the main role of chancellor who is suffering when leaving politics. The play was translated to English by Canadian writer Paul Wilson and directed by Sam Walters, the artistic leader of the Orange Tree.

Wilson knows Czech society and language because he stayed in Prague in the 1970s (he was also member of a famous underground musical group The Plastic People of the Universe). In 1977, he was forced to leave former Czechoslovakia after The Plastic People were disbanded. Wilson has rich experiences from translating Havel’s texts into English; he has translated two more Havel plays. He thinks Leaving can be the work that can be best accepted outside Czech Republic because of its dateless topic.

Director Sam Walters named the play "funny and sad, about big things, about politics, but also about personal fortunes." His company will perform Leaving till the middle of December and it will add other Havel plays Mountain Hotel, Audience, Private View and Protest.

Havel's Leaving was first staged in Czech language in Prague May 22, 2008. Havel tried to have the play in the National Theatre, but the premiere took place in the Archa Theatre at the end. The expected participation of Havel's wife Dagmar Havlová was also cancelled.


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