Theatre pops up… in a Hammersmith front room 

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Playwright Vaclav Havel’s Vanek Trilogy revives the ‘living room tradition’ of Czech drama

The latest theatrical production in Hammersmith is a compact, intimate show, staged in somebody’s front room!

The precise location of the play, an absurdist comedy based on Czech playwright Vaclav Havel’s Vanek Trilogy, will only be revealed to ticket holders 24 hours in advance.

As only 20 tickets have been issued for the show on Saturday 25 November, it has instantly sold out… but its popularity suggests there’s future demand for similar productions.

The concept revives the ‘living room tradition’ of Czech drama, adopted when actors were denied public performance space by the authorities during communist rule, and had to mount clandestine shows in private homes.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council aim to make the borough one of the leading places in the country for the arts as outlined in its new Arts Strategy (pdf).

“This is an unusual type of theatre, with the audience squeezing on to sofas, chairs and floor cushions in someone’s home,” said Cllr Andrew Jones, H&F Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration.

“It’s wonderful that it is taking place in Hammersmith as we want to make the borough the best place to work, live and socialise in the UK. And this play is not only fun and highly original, but it’s a tribute to the writers and actors who helped achieve freedom.”

Decisions by the select audience (fortified by chilled Czech beer) will steer the drama’s direction in an interactive show organised through the Czech Republic’s embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens.

Performed by the Oneohone Theatre Company, and directed by Asia Osborne, it features Matthew Hawes, Charlie Mulliner, Lindsay Dukes and Eleanor Rushton.

Havel wrote three thinly veiled autobiographical plays between 1975 and 1978 centred on a character called Ferdinand Vanek, a dissident playwright who is forced to work in a brewery, where he is spied on by the owner.

The playwright served four years in prison for campaigning for human rights in Czechoslovakia, then became the Czech Republic’s first president. He died in 2011 at the age of 75.

“One could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity,” Havel once declared.

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