7 November 2008

Two Havel plays

The Vaclav Havel season continues with a double bill of two very different plays, Audience and Mountain Hotel.

Audience is the first of Havel's semi-autobiographical plays about a playwright made to work in a brewery during the communist oppression.

Obviously this means a lot more to my Czech friends who were there in 1968 but in the meeting between the brewery worker and his manager we learn the the informer is as much a victim of the regime as the informed on.

The play has little action and only two players (pictured) but is successfully carried by the dialogue in which the passion and intensity rises.

The second play is a whimsical contrast that has echoes of Leaving, the latest Havel play that opens and closes the season. Mountain Hotel plays on repetition as a number of hotel guests repeat their conversations in scene after scene. These repetitions change gradually and some of the roles are changed as the same lines are repeated by different players.

It brought to mind Havel's spoken comment in Leaving about having problems remembering who is on stage at any one time and I am sure that Mountain Hotel was one of the plays that he was thinking about when he said this.

One feature that I liked is that the two actors from the first play had almost non speaking roles in this one where they had whispered conversations leading to uproarious laughter.

This repetition with variations (helped by the Philip Glass music used during the scene changes) builds to a crescendo and ends with the who casts on stage repeating lines almost randomly.

Building a play around repetitive movement and dialogue makes a change from the more usual dependence on plot and character but that just makes it a different sort of play and I found it to be both interesting and entertaining.

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