It will be premiered later this year on Radio 3. BBC executives had been keeping it under wraps and were not going to announce it until the autumn. But The Independent learnt that rehearsals with Townshend and a cast had started.
For years, rock writers assumed that Townshend had abandoned the project after failing to get sufficient "creative feedback" from an audience when The Who played an early version in 1971.
Lifehouse tells of a move to a global "grid". Townshend had foreseen the Internet and the world-wide web. Kate Rowland, head of radio drama at the BBC, said last night: "It is extraordinary. He was almost hitting the nail on the head back in 1971."
Townshend said at the end of the Sixties technology and rock were hand in hand. "In the midst of all this uneasy anticipation, I wrote a play. If in the future life itself ever had to be experienced through art - let's say because of a necessary curfew to avoid the effects of radiation or pollution - a vast global network would be required."
Birth of' `Lifehouse', page 3