In 2016, Václav Havel would have reached the age of 80. This anniversary should be commemorated by Czech society as a whole, and theatre-makers should approach this task particularly seriously. Václav Havel’s journey to the presidential palace and to the position of a globally acclaimed statesman started in theatre. And it does not seem to have been by pure chance.
Modern Czech history has been closely and essentially linked with theatre. Its beginnings saw the national revival and its theatre protagonists, the Thám brothers, while the Czech national anthem has its origin in a theatre play. The National Theatre was not just proof of national emancipation but also expressed the Czechs’ desire to attain a greater political autonomy, with the most recent chapter being the open auditoriums of theatres serving as forums for social discussion at the end of the revolutionary year of 1989. Hence, it would seem logical that the first Czech (Czechoslovak) president following decades of submission would be a playwright.
In the era during which freedom in our country was curtailed and any distinct manifestation of opposition to the regime meant persecution, in some cases including imprisonment, the attention paid to us by the intellectuals, artists and politicians from happier and more liberal countries was a welcome and vital encouragement for the section of Czech society that did not want, and indeed refused, to put up with the abnormal status of public matters. It is thus natural that we kept in mind this debt, or obligation, by focusing on the eastern part of Europe when selecting the theatre companies and artists who would appear as guests at our festival. From countries that possess similar historical experience to us, yet whose current political situation gives rise to apprehension and a need to express solidarity.
Accordingly, in addition to Czech productions of Václav Havel’s plays, the festival programme includes creations of theatres and artists from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
DAKH, Kyiv – Dreams of a Lost Road
Stage director: Vlad Troitsky
A performance combining folk music in modern arrangements with a poetic theatre collage reflecting the past and present of Ukraine. The DAKH Centre of Contemporary Arts is one of the major independent theatres in Ukraine and its artistic director, Vlad Troitsky, has been invited to stage productions all over Europe. At the present time, he is based in Paris.
Belarus Free Theatre, Minsk, London – Time of Women
Stage director: Nikolai Khalezin
The Belarus Free Theatre is a phenomenon of independent theatre in its country. Its director was stripped of his citizenship and now lives in London; the actors are Belarusian, yet the company’s activities have now and then been trammelled or even disallowed by the Minsk authorities. Time of Women depicts the story of three women imprisoned for their anti-government activities, one of them being put in jail after the secret police have found a letter from Václav Havel in her possession. The play was inspired by real events and, with regard to the political oppression in Belarus, has mainly been performed in private homes.
Teatro di Capua, Saint Petersburg – Medea
Stage director: Giovanni di Capua
Giovanni di Capua is a theatre-maker of Italian descent who, after completing his studies in Russia, decided to stay on in Saint Petersburg and, together with the Georgian artist Ilona Markarova, established an independent theatre company regarding critically the situation in Russia. Their modern version of Medea in part reflects the conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Národní divadlo / National Theatre – J. Havelka, M. Ljubková, M. Slúková: The Mouse Paradise Experiment
A stage experiment with an actor and a mouse, an attempt at stage reality, laboratory conditions right before our eyes. We analyse society’s welfare, present scientific proof of the decomposition of society, in which those entering paradise inevitably perish.
Productions of Václav Havel’s plays (or plays about Václav Havel)
Divadlo na zábradlí – Miloš Orson Štědroň: Velvet Havel
A play about Václav Havel’s life; received the Divadelní noviny Prize /
Švandovo divadlo – V. Havel, M. Pokorný: Protest, Rest
Two one-act plays, with the latter – a contemporary play – linking up to and reflecting Havel’s original work
Divadlo Petra Bezruče – Václav Havel: Audience
Ferdinand Vaněk, formerly a well known scriptwriter in Prague who is laboring in a brewery, is offered a better position if he will write reports for the secret police.
Spitfire Company – Antiwords
An internationally acclaimed performance influenced by the works of Václav Havel, especially his play Audience and its legendary film adaptation. What happens when a brewer and a persecuted politician, the alter ego of Václav Havel himself, meet on stage? Two actresses, a crate of genuine Czech beer, huge original masks and absurd humour.
Divadlo Husa na provázku – Václav Havel's Hunt For a Pig
An English journalist wants to know everything about the hopes of Europe, the Czech soul and Gorbachev. So he visits Havel at Hrádeček; he wants to debate with Havel, infer, and juggle with deeper meanings and shallow subtexts. In the end, however, he learns one thing: Everyone go to hell! And this is Václav Havel, the great humanist ... if it were not for that pig ...
Divadlo Husa na provázku and HaDivadlo – Václav Havel: Tomorrow We´ll Start it Up – The play focuses on the character of Alois Rašín and the events during the night of 27 to 28 October 1918, which preceded the announcement in Prague of the independent Czechoslovak Republic on 28 October 1918.
Natalia Vorozhbyt – Donbass: a “community” theatre project, established more than a year ago and run by the Ukrainian dramatist, treating authentic stories of refugees from the war-ravaged eastern part of Ukraine.
Yuri Khashchevatski – a Belarusian documentary-maker, creator of a number of films, including An Ordinary President, about Alexander Lukashenko’s political career and rule.
Svetlana Alexeievich – a reading from the work of the Belarusian writer, author of the bestselling book Second-Hand Time: The Demise of the Red (Wo)Man, and holder of the Nobel Prize in Literature, followed by a discussion.
In collaboration with:
The Vize 97 Foundation
The Václav Havel Library
The Union of the Theatres of Europe (UTE)
The Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic
Prague City Council