A guide to Tom Stoppard plays recently performed in the West End
Considered to be one of Britain’s finest twentieth-century playwrights, Tom Stoppard returned to the West End in 2020 with his newest play, Leopoldstadt. As his most personal play to date, Stoppard’s work are evocative, making audiences consider the society around them as well as previous generations. Find out more about recent world premieres and revivals of Tom Stoppard plays in London.
Tom Stoppard plays in London
A Separate Peace
Tom Stoppard asks how society works in his 1964 play, following the hilarious attempts of nursing home staff as they treat their patients. In particular, there’s John Brown, but he’s a healthy resident. Why is he there? As part of The Remote Read series, watch David Morrissey, Jenna Coleman, Ed Stoppard and Maggie Service in an exclusive virtual reading of A Separate Peace.
Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt marks the playwright’s return to the West End after five years. Vienna in 1900 was the most vibrant city in Europe, with artistic energy in the air and a thirst for knowledge. A tenth of the population were Jews, as the previous generation were granted full civil rights by the Emperor, meaning the crowded tenements of the old Jewish quarter were filled with people from all Jewish walks of life. In what is set to be an intimate yet passionate drama, Leopoldstadt will reflect upon what it means to be Jewish in the first half of the 20th century, as a family re-discover and connect with their identity.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Daniel Radcliffe starred in the 2017 revival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which was performed at the Old Vic. Centred around the two titular characters who feature in Hamlet, the Tom Stoppard play offers both tragic and comedic moments as the pair grow confused at what happens during Shakespeare’s classic text. Stoppard’s work isn’t the first time that the minor characters have become the leads in their own play, with W. S. Gilbert’s 1874 play asking what would happen if Hamlet had been rid of. Yet, with Stoppard’s ability to intertwine a centuries-old text with his unique use of language and theatrical devices, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead continues to be one of his most successful works over 50 years since it was first performed.
The Hard Problem
Kristin Atherton and Anthony Calf starred in the 2015 world premiere of The Hard Problem, staged at the National Theatre. Asking the big questions on topics including the predictability of behaviour and parental sacrifice, the forward-thinking text addressed the tautology of human consciousness; to experience a state of consciousness, one has to be able to think. First person experiences linked characters in The Hard Problem, which transferred to Broadway in 2018.
How do the past and present connect? Never one to shy away from philosophical questions, Tom Stoppard won an Olivier Award for his hard-hitting play Arcadia, currently his only Olivier Award to date. As a young woman in the 1800s and a writer in the present day are shown at an English country house, audiences follow their alternate lives to one another. Arcadia was last revived at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2009, starring Dan Stevens and Jessie Cave.
Rock n Roll
Sharing the importance of rock and roll in twentieth-century European politics, Rufus Sewell and Brian Cox starred in the world premiere of Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Royal Court in 2006. Set over three decades, audiences follow unfolding conflicts surrounding Czechoslovakian parties and the views surrounding the Communist Party, with the play discussing the Prague Spring and a 1989 revolution. The first performance of Rock ‘n’ Roll was attended by Mick Jagger, as the music of the Rolling Stones features in the play to establish a dissenting atmosphere through music.
The Coast of Utopia
Detailing the history of 19th century Tsarist Russia, The Coast of Utopia first debated the country’s livelihood with a world premiere in 2002. Performed as a trilogy of plays: Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage respectively, the production opened up the subject of revolution while considering the viewpoints of Russian intellectuals with differing political viewpoints. After being performed in rep in London, the show transferred to Broadway and has since been performed in Russia and Japan.