Richmond's Orange Tree Theatre to Offer Vaclav Havel Season

News   Richmond's Orange Tree Theatre to Offer Vaclav Havel Season
The Orange Tree Theatre – a theatre-in-the-round in Richmond, Surrey – will stage a season of five plays by Vaclav Havel, the Czech writer and dramatist who was the tenth and last president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and the first president of the Czech Republic (1993-2003).

The plays will run in repertory from Sept. 19 to Dec. 13, and it will be possible to see all five plays in one day on Nov. 22, 29 and Dec. 6.

The season will begin with the English-language premiere of Leaving, directed by Orange Tree artistic director Sam Walters in a translation by Paul Wilson, running Sept. 19-Oct. 25, then returning from Dec. 1-13, with an official opening on Sept. 23. According to press materials, "The play has echoes of both King Lear and The Cherry Orchard, and addresses the themes of change, dispossession and the passage of power from one generation to the next amidst the chaos of leaving." It revolves around Chancellor Rieger, who is leaving office. But does leaving office necessarily mean that he, his "long-time companion" and his extended family have to leave the state villa, which has been their home for years? While his former secretary, and the former secretary to his former secretary, grapple with the mechanics of change and his family prepare to face an uncertain future, the Chancellor himself considers his legacy amidst visits from journalists, an infatuated student, deputy minister Klein and the attentions of his servant Oswald and Knobloch, the gardener.

Next, a double-bill of Audience, Havel's first play, will be presented with Mountain Hotel, written in the 1970s, running Oct. 29-Nov. 8 (with an official opening on Oct. 31), then returning Nov 17-21, directed by Sam Walters. Mountain Hotel, translated by Jitka Martinova, is set in a hotel where a motley group of guests are striving to live with each other. Among them a blocked writer, a sentimental Russian count, and Vilem Pechar sunbathing on the grass. There's Rachel whose life appears to revolve around knitting and sex, Vilem's wife ministering to his infidelities and Liza coping with the count. Two of the guests look on in silence. The hotel staff has problems too; and five of the men are called Joseph. In Audience, translated by Carol Rocamora and Tomas Rychetsky, Vanek is working in a brewery (as Havel did) and finds himself summoned to meet his boss. Might there be a better job on offer, where he will not have to handle heavy barrels of beer? But might there be a catch? Who exactly is going to be doing who a favor? And just how much beer is Vanek expected to consume before he finds out?

A double-bill of Private View and Protest, translated by Carol Rocamora and Tomas Rychetsky, will run Nov. 10 (also the official opening) through Nov. 15 and Nov. 24-28. In Private View, Michael and Vera invite Vanek to their newly refurbished flat. They want to show off the new records they bought when abroad, their art acquisitions, and to offer their friend bourbon from the States and groombles served with woodpeak. But why does he seem to be withholding his approval? Protest concerns the arrest of a pop musician. Vanek is invited to the house of Stanek, a well-known writer and media figure. But why has he been invited? And is it fortunate that he happens to have in his pocket a petition protesting at the singer's arrest?

The Orange Tree season will also embrace the rediscovery of a 1913 comedy by Henry Arthur Jones, Mary Goes First. The play revolves around the political shenanigans that occur as an election approaches, with honors for sale, local councillors and putative MPs changing parties from Conservative to Liberal and back again. Mary Whichello, the leader of society in a middle sized manufacturing town, is distinctly put out when her husband's main rival, Thomas Bodsworth, is knighted for his services to the local community. Drastic measures are required. A dinner party at the home of a young solicitor, anxious to make his way and marry Mary's sister, provides an ideal opportunity, especially when Lady Bodsworth presents such a sitting target. The play will run Dec. 17, 2008-Jan. 31, 2009, with an official opening on Dec. 19. For tickets (public booking begins Aug. 11), contact the box office at 020 8940 3633 or visit

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