Saturday, February 14, 2009


National Theatre at the Olivier


I first saw this unique blend of music and theatre in 1977, when the limitations of the Festival Hall made it much more of a concert performance than it is in Tom Morris's imaginative staging.

Stoppard has said that the two elements are necessary to each other. Though his collaboration with Previn apparently consisted of his handing the script over with a cheery “Your turn, AndrĂ© !”

The strength of this new production are the involvement – sometimes very intimate involvement – of the young musicians of the Southbank Sinfoni, under Simon Over, and the three central performances of Toby Jones as the crazy Ivanov, Joseph Millson as the gaunt, haunted dissident Ivanov, and Dan Stevens as the Doctor who plays the fiddle.

Opinions were divided about Bryony Hannah's Sacha – a moving, well-observed characterization, but still a mature woman where, as I think Stoppard was trying to say tactfully, we needed an unsophisticated, clear-sighted child.

Dated ? Certainly the music would be done differently thirty years on, but the jokes are still fresh and funny, and the human rights issues still sadly relevant, and not funny at all.

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