Where Did It All Go Wrong? European History Gets a Make-Over in an Uneasy Marriage of Politics and Pop

By Millard, Rosie | New Statesman (1996), June 26, 2006 | Go to article overview

Where Did It All Go Wrong? European History Gets a Make-Over in an Uneasy Marriage of Politics and Pop


Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)


Rock'n'Roll

Royal Court Theatre, London SW1

To appreciate Tom Stoppard's new play you need a firm grasp of the history of communism and an anorak's knowledge of late 1960s music. Rock'n'Roll manages, just, to pull off an overview of the turbulent politics of Czechoslovakia 1968-1990, as witnessed by the rock journalist Jan (Rufus Sewell).

Events in Prague are played off against a history of 20th-century British Marxist activity centred on Max (Brian Cox), an ageing, irascible communist and Cambridge academic. In addition, Stoppard juggles references to the October and velvet revolutions, by way of Stalin, Dubcek, Gorbachev and, of course, Vaclav Havel, to whom the play is dedicated.

Stoppard has dealt with postwar Czechoslovakian politics before, in his bouncy 1970s television comedy Professional Foul. Now, however, our leading playwright, in elder statesman mode, has put the politics before the drama--and it seems as if the director, Trevor Nunn, hasn't had the nerve to complain

As Jan, Sewell delivers a knock-out performance, going from long-haired idealist to prison-cropped cynic and back again. He is an actor who once looked as if he was bound for Hollywood. America's loss is our gain. He manages the rapid changes of both accent and hair-length with conviction, and manfully copes with the achingly long political expositions that dog the first half. Stoppard is so busy presenting his native Czechoslovakia as a test case for the failure of communism that, after about 40 minutes of speechifying, you stop wondering where socialism went wrong and start wondering where this play went wrong.

The work's inspiration/muse (the meaning of these words provides a typical Stoppardian diversion) is the real-life story of a long-forgotten Czech band, the Plastic People of the Universe. The long hair and anti-establishment stance of the PPU was a big deal in Czech resistance circles, and they paid for it with their freedom. Yet, provided with little more than two-dimensional descriptions, I was left feeling pretty tepid about their fate. More arresting musical references come from the chronological insertion of anthems by the Floyd, Dylan and the Stones, blasted out over a blackened stage and tracking the events of the play. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Where Did It All Go Wrong? European History Gets a Make-Over in an Uneasy Marriage of Politics and Pop
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.