Private View and Protest

BY VACLAV HAVEL
10 November 2008 — 6 December 2008

In the 1970s, after the Prague spring was over, and Havel's plays were no longer acceptable in Czechoslovakia, he created the character of Vanek, a semi- autobiographical dissident writer, who appeared in short plays secretly disseminated around the Prague artistic underground.

So popular (and funny and apt) was Vanek that other writers, including Pavel Kohout, the actor Pavel Landovsky and Jiri Dienstbier, later to become Foreign Secretary in the post-1989 government, asked to borrow him and wrote their own Vanek plays.

In the three Havel plays we meet Vanek first at work (in Audience, shown with Mountain Hotel), then visiting friends and finally engaged in his 'dissident' activities.

Michael and Vera invite Vanek to a very Private View of their newly re-furbished flat. They want to show off the new records they bought when abroad, their art acquisitions, the gothic Madonna 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?

Both plays are directed by Sam Walters