Stoppard's Coast of Utopia Within Sight at London's National

News   Stoppard's Coast of Utopia Within Sight at London's National

The Coast of Utopia is Sir Tom Stoppard's trilogy of plays centered on the political and philosophical idealism and debates of mid nineteenth-century Russia.

The National has a good track record on trilogies. David Hare's trilogies, commissioned by the then director of the National Theatre, Sir Richard Eyre, were a major achievement in the 1990's.

Now, a decade later and to mark the close of his own tenure at the National, Sir Trevor Nunn has commissioned — and directed — three plays by one of the country's most distinguished playwrights.

Stoppard, unlike Hare, has delivered all three at the same time, which is a major challenge but also a major gamble. Had he produced one at a time, then there would have been plenty of opportunity to adjust his style, refocus on different characters or whatever else critics took issue with. Or, of course, capitalized on a technique or personality that proved particularly successful.

For the press, this will be a marathon event, as all three plays — Voyage, Shipwreck and Salvage — will be performed on Saturday, Aug. 3. As well as asking theatre critics to give up their well-earned weekends, the National is also asking them to sit through some nine hours of plays by the same author, on (essentially) the same theme and with, up to a point, the same characters.

—By Paul Webb Theatrenow