Will it be third time lucky for Vaclav Havel’s play “Leaving”?

Vaclav Havel, photo: CTK

When Vaclav Havel stepped down as president after three terms in office he said he was planning to return to his creative roots. His first play in two decades –called “Leaving” or “Odchazeni” in Czech – draws on his experience in the world of politics and has generated a lot of media attention. Prague’s top theatres jockeyed for the honour of presenting it but finding the right stage for Mr Havel’s new play has not proved easy.

“Leaving” tells the story of a high-ranking politician leaving his post, moving out of his state villa and coming to terms with his new life. The play addresses themes of change, dispossession and the passing of power from one generation to the next. Mr. Havel, who has refuted suggestions that it is autobiographical, first offered it to the National Theatre – Prague’s most prestigious theatre. However the talks broke down over Mr. Havel’s insistence that his actress wife Dagmar should play the lead female role which he said had been written with her in mind. The challenge of producing “Leaving” was then taken up by Prague’s Na Vinohradech theatre, an institution with a history and cast second only to the National Theatre in Prague.
Vaclav Havel,  photo: CTK
But there too things did not go well. On Thursday the theatre backed out of the talks, saying that its limited finances would not allow it to fulfil the technical and budgetary demands of the play’s director. Almost immediately the avant-garde oriented Archa Theatre volunteered to host the play and talks started anew. Mr. Havel said that he was hopeful things would go well.

“I have come to believe that this search for an appropriate theatre was all for the best, that it was fated to happen. I wrote the play with a medium-sized stage in mind and that is where it rightly belongs.”

Archa is proud of having landed rights to premiere the play and claims it has all the technical facilities required. However there is one potential hitch – the theatre’s finances for next year have not yet been confirmed – and unless it gets a fine fat grant Mr. Havels’ financially demanding play “Leaving” might have live up to its name one more time.