Of Pigs and Dissidents
Václav Havel wrote the one-act play Pig, or Vaclav Havel's Hunt for a Pig (Prase, aneb Vaclav Havel's Hunt for a Pig) in 1981. It was never performed. Director Vladimír Morávek discovered it while he was preparing his scenic assemblage of Havel's plays for Goose on a String Theater in Brno entitled Circus Havel. He did not use the text in the assemblage, but in March of 2010 the play had its world premiere under his direction.
In this brief anecdotal sketch based on a true story, Václav Havel tells of how, in a village, a man in the character of a dissident was attempting to obtain a pig to have a hog-killing with, which he was going to invite his dissident friends to. The villagers sense an opportunity to fleece the guy from Prague, but at the same time they are afraid to get mixed up with someone the regime doesn't like. A grotesque sequence of scenes follow, in which the villagers are afraid to reveal which one of them will obtain the pig, and they keep asking Havel for more money. Morávek staged the text as a testament of the state of Czech society at that time, which gave an excellent characterization of Czech mentality. The absurd humor has another source in the character of a British reporter, who is importunately attempting to persuade
Morávek dressed the villagers in folk costume (which in the Czech countryside in the 1980's had not been worn for a long time). He also had them sing again and again the hit from the Czech National Opera, The Bartered Bride, “Why Shouldn't We Be Happy?” The choral singing and solos from the Bartered Bride were juxtaposed in such a way that it gave the impression of a whole not unlike an operetta. Indeed Havel's whole anabasis towards the pig has the effect of an absurd operetta whose action references the contemporary political reality. The final banquet scene, in which the overpriced pig grows bitter in the mouths of the group, is, in this production at the same time a celebration of recovered freedom. The banquet closes with a signing of Havel's writings.
Pig, or Václav Havel's Hunt for a Pig deserves its late debut. It is fresh, playful, and a typical Havel text which was unjustly dismissed by the writer. Vladimír Morávek's direction helped a great deal by clearly outlining the theme.
Václav Havel: Pig, or Václav Havel's Hunt for a Pig (Prase, aneb Václav Havel's Hunt for a Pig). Adaptation René Ludowitz, directed by Vladimír Morávek, set by Sylva Hanáková, pig built by Ladislav Vlna. Goose on a String Theatre, Brno, premiere 20 / 3 / 2010
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