Rock N Roll by Tom Stoppard, dir. Trevor Nunn

I’m getting behind in reviews so I’ll just skip ahead a little and do last night …

So instead of yet another Shakespeare I went and saw a Stoppard instead. His latest play Rock N Roll which he wrote for the Royal Court Theatre in celebration of their 50 years.

I think I’ll start with my overall impression of the play and work from there. It is this:



Yes, that was it. This play has won awards aplenty, garnered fantastic reviews but a good half of the play lost me completely in the wilderness.

This much I got: a tale of the Velvet Revolution through the life of one man and his relationship with rock music. So far so good, also good was the study of Communism during this era and this philosophical debates therein, then there was something about Pan, Latin,Poetry and some metaphor tied in with Syd Barrett – no idea what exactly but it took up a large portion of the play and I really didn’t understand any of it.

My love for the work of Stoppard and I parted a wee while ago – possibly with the Coast of Utopia, which admittedly I only read but didn’t quite understand or maybe with Arcadia which I have also only read but didn’t like very much. I love vintage Stoppard – Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, The Real Inspector Hound, Albert’s Bridge, Jumpers etc but the later stuff I really couldn’t care much about. Long passages of dialogue, solid talking heads that don’t seem to advance the story anywhere … or maybe I’m just too stupid or inexperienced to understand it.

Is he writing too old for me? I’ve had that experience before, for instance Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen I loved but his Democracy left me cold and I’m sure there are other writers but I just can’t think of them right now (oh wait a second, Alan Bennett and David Hare comes to mind). Will I understand these later works of Stoppard when I get older? Will I be interested in them when I get older? Will I want to be interested in/comprehending his writing when I get older? I don’t know, maybe this parting of ways is permanent. Even so I’ve learnt a lot about writing along the way so, thank you Mr Stoppard – I am indebted to you.

That’s not to say there aren’t some very fine moments in this play. Classic bits of absurdist scenarios and dialogue which I clicked with (unlike the bits I felt were a bit indulgent and unneccessarily detailed) and an excellent soundtrack (’cause, you know, Rock N Roll – so there was sprinklings of Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, bit of John Lennon thrown in for good measure and, er, Guns ‘n’ Roses … what is it about Guns ‘n’ Roses that makes me giggle every time I hear them?).

Each song denoted the start or end of a scene where the lights would go to black, a screen would come down and projected onto it would be the name of the song, the writer, the band, the recording studio and dates and who was playing what before displaying the year of the next scene – a very clever way to show the passing of time.

Good, solid performances from the cast. Great set – on a revolve and the revolve was split into quarters so you could easily transition into other rooms, have a split screen effect or compare and contrast scenes.

So yeah, good but, um, what?


3 Responses to “Rock N Roll by Tom Stoppard, dir. Trevor Nunn”

  1. Louise Rae Says:

    Take me down to paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty…

    Take… Me… Home… Yeah-yeah.

  2. In this case it was Don’t Cry … I almost had a fit!

  3. Sorry to hear you didn’t get the play…it’s the stuff that my Master’s Thesis is made of.
    Brilliant piece if you’re interested in dissident politics of Eastern Europe. If you want to know more about the meaning of Stoppard’s play, don’t hesitate: I’m available to give you an insight into my written work.

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