Friday, November 2, 2007

It's all politics

I have always believed that playwrights should never (NEVER) write introductions or program notes (prime offender: David Hare, whose program notes invariably tell you about the play he wanted to write instead of the one you're actually watching).

Tom Stoppard commits this sin in his introduction to the script for Rock 'n' Roll, when he writes: "Dramatists become essayists at their peril." Six words that never made a single appearance in the pamphlet-sized notes that accompanied the program for Coast of Utopia.

I bring this up not just to point out how writers, like governments, are always re-fighting the last war they lost, but to offer Rock 'n' Roll as an example of a play where Stoppard's inner lecturer only makes a guest appearance here and there. (And do I know from inner lecturers.) The rest of the time, the stage is taken over by characters embodying history the way good actors embody characters: seamlessly.

It helps a lot that the play is more than a little autobiographical, in a what-if way. It helps even more that it's performed by most of the original British cast. Sinead Cusack doubles a mother and daughter and makes them totally different. Brian Cox goes from zero to eighty in two seconds and only ever takes his foot off the pedal to gun the engine up to a hundred. And Rufus Sewell, well, what can I say. The man is a god.

So what's the play about? Sappho, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd, cancer, the Great God Pan, the Prague Spring, Communism vs Capitalism, betrayal (in a minor key), and a love story. Spiced with some very deliberate echoes of The Unbearable Lightness of Being (which definitely needs to be added to my novels list) and dished up with a soundtrack that serves as an example of the play's main theme: true rock 'n' roll always is and always will be political.

Go see it.

1 comment:

sarah blue said...

wah, i'm missing rufus sewell?!?! yummmmm