Saturdays', you can see all three plays in one go, which
kicks off at 11am and doesn't end till almost 11pm, including
a couple of 75 minute meal breaks (You can also see the plays
separately on week nights).
doubt a long haul, but definitely a rewarding one, that is
by turns dense and daunting, exhilarating and infuriating!
020 7452 3000
(The BBC is not responsible for the
content of external websites)
Coast of Utopia (National Theatre, Olivier)
For the first time in the life of this section, my Hot
Tickets this week are all part of the same massive event: the world
premiere of three separate but sequential plays by Tom Stoppard,
whom I dubbed last week Britain's brainiest playwright.
And so it proves,
with intellectual and verbal fireworks igniting the National's biggest
stage, the Olivier, as Stoppard tells an epic story that features
some 70 characters, dozens of different locations and shifting time
frames - and combines public and private themes with fierce debate.
The plays, covering
a 33-year time span from 1833 to 1866, embrace a rich canvas of
real-life Russian characters as they seek change, both in their
political life and in their own personal pursuit of love and happiness.
The lead characters
are anarchist Michael Bakunin (Douglas Henshall), writer
Ivan Turgenev (Guy Henry), literary critic Vissarion Belinsky
(Will Keen) and revolutionary thinker Alexander Herzen (Stephen
In the first play,
Voyage, we are introduced to Bakunin, his affluent family
and idealistic friends on his country estate. Stoppard draws a wonderful,
almost Chekhovian portrait of life there while setting the scene
for what fuels this group's youthful ambitions.
second play, Shipwreck, shifts the focus to Herzen, and the
action from Russia to Paris, where - against the backdrop of the
1848 revolution - the personal becomes political.
(It also allows
director Trevor Nunn a reprise of his Les Miserables barricade
scene). The philosopher Herzen becomes the mouthpiece for the search
for a Utopia, but even as he strives to reach it, it eludes him
in a series of personal catastrophes.
Finally, in the
third play, Salvage - his family and ideals lost - Herzen
finds solace amongst a community of Russian exiles in London, including
Bakunin who has escaped from Siberia, and seen only briefly, Karl
Though these plays
sometimes feel as if they've been written as much in the research
library as in the creative furnace, there's also something rich
and exciting about Stoppard's desire to convey so much knowledge
On the other hand,
the trilogy might have been sharper if it were condensed a bit.
But there's no doubting that the fluidity of Stoppard's ideas are
more than matched by the fluidity of Nunn's stunning production,
and the amazing ensemble performances he brings out.