Review: The Eden Game

Sam Beckwith finds much to enjoy in a staged reading of Jock Doubleday's Havel play

Launched six months ago, the Prague Film & Theater Center has quickly established itself as a vibrant presence on the expat cultural scene, breaking new ground with its events and productions. March 23's staged reading of The Eden Game, a play by Los Angeles-based writer Jock Doubleday, was no exception.

Held at Malé Vinohradské divadlo, this unusual production offered a Prague audience a chance to experience a work-in-progress with a distinctly Czech theme: Václav Havel.

The concept -- actors seated in a semi-circle, reading from scripts -- might sound unpromising but both the play and the performances were lively enough to make for an entertaining evening.

Heading a pleasingly diverse international cast, Scott Williams -- perhaps best known in Prague as the lead singer of Joy Division tribute band Dead Souls -- brings more than a touch of the tormented rock star to his portrayal of Havel, an unconventional casting decision that works surprisingly well.

Other stand-outs include Australian actress Kathryn Hume-Čvančarová as a psychologist with a secret and American journalist Grant Podelco as an avuncular-yet-sinister prison warden.

Although hindered by an over-complicated Brechtian play-within-a-play structure, Doubleday's script benefits from lively dialogue (lucky, really!) and the sheer novelty value of seeing familiar historical characters -- Havel, his wives Olga and Dagmar, and former Foreign Minister Jiří Dienstbier among others -- presented in a unashamedly amplified fictional context.

Straddling historical fact and outright fantasy in its portrayal of Havel's transition from imprisoned dissident to overstretched statesman, The Eden Game is occasionally a little too ambitious. Doubleday's depiction of post-1989 Prague -- particularly his characters' preoccupation with McDonald's -- can also seem a little obvious and simplistic at times. Despite that, there is much to enjoy in The Eden Game, a full production of which would be a welcome addition to Prague's English-language theatre scene.


"Thank you for your review of the recent staged reading of The Eden Game.

I am looking forward to a full production of the play in Prague -- in both Czech and English.

Photos of the staged rehearsal:

My adventures thus far getting the play produced in Prague :)

A production of the first act of the play in New York State (before the second act was written):

The play has also been adapted for the screen.

Thank you again for your cogent comments on the play.


Jock Doubleday
Author of The Eden Game"

April 3, 2012

Video on YouTube

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