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