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March 9, 2009 | by  | in Theatre |
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Rock ‘n’ Roll

Rock ‘n’ Roll, the latest work by genius playwright Tom Stoppard. Spanning from 1967 to 1990, alternating between Cambridge and Prague, it is the epic story of Max, a professor at Cambridge, his family and one of his students, Jan. The juxtaposition of the realties of communism in Czechoslovakia against Max’s bourgeois middle-class communist theorising forms the keystone of the piece.

At nearly three hours—including intermission—Rock ‘n’ Roll risks becoming endurance theatre. Director Susan Wilson’s direction and pacing is controlled and precise enough to make the whole thing fly by, though it does take about half an hour to really get flowing, and some of the blocking is rather clouded. She is more than ably assisted by her cast. Jeffery Thomas as Max is a powerful central presence. Aaron Alexander’s Jan is a sensitive portrayal of a conflicted person. The supporting cast all do very fine work with some very brief roles, making their mark and then leaving, never feeling sketched in. Technically, Rock ‘n’ Roll is a triumph. John Hodgkins’ revolving set creates a perfect multitude of playing spaces. Philip Dexter’s lighting is clean and tactful. Gillie Coxill’s costumes work very well to evoke the multitude of peroids demanded by the play, without ever feeling kitsch or past tense. Andrew Simpson’s video design is immaculate. The sound by Thomas Press has a lot of hard work to do in a show so reliant upon music. He never stumbles, doing a more than admirable job.

Rock ‘n’ Roll is a good play. This is a good production. It should be the logical choice to recommend it. But there is the hanging question of relatability. Rock ‘n’ Roll is dense, bordering on the impenetrable. There is a good argument to be made that it is little more than an essay in play form. A really good, readable essay, but an essay none the less. Whether you should see it really depends on your interest. Do you want to see a three hour theatrical trek through the ins and outs of communism, with a bit of rock and a bit of roll thrown in for good measure? Only you can answer that question. Me? I do. I did. I loved it.

Written by Tom Stoppard

Directed by Susan Wilson

With Sophie Hambleton, Aaron Alexander, Jeffery Thomas, Michele Amas, Laura Hill,
Gavin Rutherford, Richard Knowles, Tina Regtien and James Conway-Law

28 February–28 March 2009, at Circa One.

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About the Author ()

Uther was one of the two arts editors in 2009. He was the horoscopier and theatre writer in 2010. Alongside Elle Hunt, Uther was coeditor in 2011.

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