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Old August 30, 2007, 07:54 PM
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Havel play delayed over wife row

A long-awaited new play by former Czech President Vaclav Havel has been delayed because of a dispute over whether his wife should play the lead role.

Mr Havel insists that he wrote Leaving, a political drama, specifically for Dagmar Havlova, whom he wed in 1997.

The National Theatre in Prague says it does not accept guest actors, prompting him to seek an alternative venue.

Mr Havel was a well-known playwright when he led the 1989 Velvet Revolution. His presidency ended in February 2003.

From the 1960s onwards, he published dozens of plays, books and political essays.

As a dissident in the 1970s and 80s, his plays were banned by the communist regime and he spent many years in and out of prison.

But he set aside his literary career when he became president in 1990.

Little is known about the comeback play, except that it draws on both Mr Havel's autobiography and Shakespeare's King Lear.

The main plot is believed to revolve around the difficulties faced by a politician who wants to give up power.

The playwright recently told Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny that he had promised his new wife they would co-operate on the play.

"She was present when I was writing it in the US some months ago," he said.

"I wrote it for her, I imagined her being in it."

Havlova, a renowned comic actress, announced earlier this month she was withdrawing from the project.

The National Theatre was due to premiere the drama in May, according to trade newspaper Variety.

The venue's director, Ondrej Cerny, says he would still like to stage the work and hopes to re-open talks with the former president.
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