Monday, August 14, 2006
Rock 'n' Roll
It took a while to digest this one, to work out exactly how I felt about it and how it made me feel - which is a good thing surely.
It's actually very hard to describe what it's about - because while it encompasses so much, it never really settles on any one theme, it hops from one idea to another. For those it don't know, R'n'R concerns Jan (played subtly and quite superbly by Rufus Sewell) a Czech student with a passion for rock music whose life gets overtaken by the politics of his country. This enables Stoppard to touch on numerous themes, communism, the power of music, academia, identity, and so on.
I can see why some people react against Stoppard, the play is very cerebral, at times seemingly rather proud of just how clever it is, and in the first half in particular there was little to engage with emotionally. Sorcha Cusack's tearful breakdown is meant to be the big moment of revelation in this part of the play, but it was just so jarring and inorganic, I couldn't buy it. In fact I found her performance difficult to get to grips with throughout.
Things warmed up considerably in the second half however and when the middle-aged Jan (having remained stoic and passive throughout everything, despite being imprisoned under the communist regime and having his record collection destroyed by the police) finally cracks, I did find find myself welling up. It was a well judged moment - and it made me think about the fact that my grandfather too spent time in prison under similar circumstances under Tito, something I've long known but if I'm honest never given much thought before now. The play needed that emotional hook or it wouldn't have worked for me (and I would have liked to know a lot more about Syd Barratt and the Czech band The Plastic People Of The Universe, just hearing the songs wasn't really enough - at times it just felt like a trawl through Stoppard's record collection).
It's a play that will stay with me certainly, though I didn't adore it with same passion as Lisa, who was seeing it again after already catching it at the Royal Court earlier this year.