The Beggar’s Opera

Sir Tom Stoppard with Sam Walters

Sir Tom Stoppard with Sam Walters,

 artistic director of the Orange Tree Theatre
Photo: Christopher Sykes

The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond was the intimate setting for a gala performance of Vaclav Havel’s The Beggar’s Opera on Wednesday 22nd January. The event, in aid of Writers in Prison, was a resounding success. A packed audience of PEN friends and members were thrilled to have Sir Tom Stoppard give his own introduction to Havel’s play, a powerful yet highly entertaining portrayal of a society riven by corruption and mistrust.

English PEN President Victoria Glendinning kicked off the proceedings by welcoming some distinguished guests, His Excellency the Ambassador of the Czech Republic and his wife, and Sir Tom Stoppard, long time supporter of English PEN and Writers in Prison. She also expressed her thanks to Lee Langley, who spearheaded the event, and Sam Walters, Artistic Director at the Orange Tree and a patron of Havel’s work for many years.

Sir Tom Stoppard reminded the audience of the circumstances surrounding the play’s premiere in the then Czechoslovakia; Havel a beleaguered playwright, the play managing only one performance before being banned by the authorities. He emphasised his pride at being associated with Havel, and the special relevance of Havel’s work, occupying as it does the intersection between the two “arcs” of the playwright and the work done by the Writers in Prison programme.

Howard Saddler’s scurrilous Macheath and David Timson’s duplicitous Peachum headed an admirable cast which left the audience with an enduring vision of a world ruled by dishonesty. We thank all those who collaborated to make the evening a success.

Report by Tanya Andrews

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