It's not often that news of something failing is good news. Václav Havel has failed to agree with the National Theatre on the premiere of his new drama, Odcházení (Leaving). This is downright wonderful news!
Surely the memory lingers of his stiff farewell to the presidency at the „golden chapel,“ where his wife, Dagmar Havlová, in good faith, presented him with an evening full of tributes by prominent Czech heroes and heroines, casting him in the role of embarrassed Daddy, looking down from his box on his personal legacy to the nation. But what is more important: The staging of his play at the same venue would most likely not go at all well.
The current National Theatre reminds us of an old whale stuck in shallow waters, gasping for breath, with no force in sight able to return the leviathan to open sea. For the theatre's management it is not important whether it is in step with the viewer habituated to timely, dynamic dramatists. It is more important to provide a satisfying meal to the numerous ensembles whose bards have, for some years now, hearkening to better times. So no big experimentation, and better to keep to old standbys. Nowadays the National is worse off in this respect than Czech Television. It's as if time has stopped.
Havel's plays more than others need an energetic hand able to offer sound advice, something not found in the tired National Theatre. It's not much better at the Vinohrady Theatre, where the Leaving will…