Seething with rage, Vaclav lets rip with vicious barbs and hifalutin pomposity

Source: The Advertiser / / By Peter Burdon /

THE numerous and stylistically diverse plays of Czech statesman, playwright and sometime-dissident Vaclav Havel, all deal in their own way with the theme of identity in crisis.

The Conspirators at Holden Street Theatres
The Conspirators, at Holden Street Theatres.

In Red Phoenix’s production of The Conspirators – remarkably, this may be only the third production in English – we have an author seething with rage at being denounced for subversion following the Prague Spring, and he lets rip at the ruling party in no uncertain, in this case comic, terms.

The terms range from vicious barbs to hifalutin pomposity that would do Sir Humphrey and Yes, Minister proud. The latter are delivered most admirably and entertainingly by Tony Busch as the flexible State Prosecutor, changing principles more quickly than the Vicar of Bray.

He is a member of the elite, and looks to a position on the Revolutionary Council, though quite what position he or anyone else occupies chop and change thanks to the machinations of, in order, the Head of the joint Chiefs (a splendidly bumbling Adrian Barnes), a wealthy and particularly licentious widow (Emily Branford in an irresistible performance), the sadistic Chief of Police (Brant Eustice) and the gormless Censor (Nick Fagan).

The knockabout comedy is great fun, even if there are a good many cul-de-sac that could be easily excised from the play. But a strong message, still worryingly resonant two generations on.