The Coast of Utopia

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The Coast of Utopia
The Coast of Utopia Trilogy.jpg
Written by Tom Stoppard
Characters Alexander Herzen
Vissarion Belinsky
Ivan Turgenev
Mikhail Bakunin
Date premiered 22 June 2002
Place premiered Olivier Theatre
London, England
Original language English
Series The Coast of Utopia:
Voyage
Shipwreck
Salvage
Genre Drama
Setting pre-revolution Russia

The Coast of Utopia is a 2002 trilogy of plays: Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage, written by Tom Stoppard with focus on the philosophical debates in pre-revolution Russia between 1833 and 1866. It was the recipient of the 2007 Tony Award for Best Play. The title comes from a chapter in Avrahm Yarmolinsky's book Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism (1959).

The trilogy, nine hours in total, premiered with Voyage on 22 June 2002 at the National Theatre's Olivier auditorium in repertory, directed by Trevor Nunn. The openings of Shipwreck and Salvage followed on 8 July, and 19 July, completing its run on 23 November 2002. In 2006, directed by Jack O'Brien, the plays debuted on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, New York City, where it closed on 13 May 2007 after a combined total of 124 performances.

The trilogy has also been performed in Russia; it opened at Moscow's Russian Academic Youth Theatre in October 2007, directed by Alexey Borodin.

The trilogy received its Japanese premiere at Theater Cocoon, Bunkamura in Tokyo on 12 September 2009 and completed its run (including 10 one-day marathon performances) on 4 October 2009. The production was directed by Yukio Ninagawa.

Production history[edit]

London premiere[edit]

Directed by Trevor Nunn, the trilogy premiered with Voyage at the Olivier Theatre in London on 22 June 2002, followed by Shipwreck and Salvage with a six-month run ended on 23 November 2002.[1]

Reviewing the play in The Guardian, drama critic Michael Billington wrote, "Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia in the Olivier is a bundle of contradictions. Comprising three three-hour plays, it is heroically ambitious and wildly uneven. ... But I wouldn't have missed it for worlds and at its heart it contains a fascinating lesson about the nature of drama."[2] He further commented on Stoppard the dramatist, "I think it is time we began to appreciate Stoppard not for his intellectual legerdemain, but for what he is actually best at: exploring the mystery of existence, the anguish of the human heart and the strange fact that it is our apprehension of death that gives joy and intensity to life."[3]

Broadway debut[edit]

The trilogy's Broadway debut was directed by Jack O'Brien at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York City. The cast included Brían F. O'Byrne, Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle, Billy Crudup, Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Martha Plimpton, David Harbour, Jason Butler Harner and Amy Irving.[4] Viewed as "the season's ultimate snob ticket",[4] the production ran from November 2006 to May 2007 with a combined total of 124 performances.

In his review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley called the production "brave and gorgeous", adding that "I wouldn't call it [the play] a major work of art. In literary terms I wouldn't even rank it with Mr. Stoppard's best (in which I include the Broadway-bound Rock 'n' Roll). But as directed by Jack O'Brien and acted and designed by a stellar team of artisans, Utopia is a major work of theatrical craftsmanship, a luscious advertisement for the singular narrative seductiveness of drama."[4]

The production was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won seven, breaking the Tony record for the most awards given to a play.[5][6]

Characters and cast[edit]

The following table indicates the roles played by the main cast in London, New York, and Moscow, respectively. Several principal actors played multiple roles in each of the three plays.

Actor in London, 2002 Actor in New York, 2006 Actor in Moscow, 2007 Voyage Shipwreck Salvage
Stephen Dillane Brían F. O'Byrne Ilya Isaev Alexander Herzen Alexander Herzen Alexander Herzen
Eve Best Jennifer Ehle Nelly Uvarova Liubov Bakunin Natalie Herzen Malwida von Meysenbug
Will Keen Billy Crudup Evgeny Redko Vissarion Belinsky Vissarion Belinsky
Guy Henry Jason Butler Harner Alexey Miasnikov Ivan Turgenev Ivan Turgenev Ivan Turgenev
Douglas Henshall Ethan Hawke Stepan Morozov Mikhail Bakunin Mikhail Bakunin Mikhail Bakunin
John Carlisle Richard Easton Viktor Tsymbal Alexander Bakunin Leonty Ibayev Stanislaw Worcell
Charlotte Emmerson Martha Plimpton Ramilya Iskander Varenka Bakunin Natasha Tuchkova Natasha Tuchkova Ogareva

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play
  • 2007 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
  • 2007 Tony Award for Best Play
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music for a Play (Mark Bennett)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Coast of Utopia: Voyage". Royal National Theatre. 2008. Retrieved 29 June 2008. 
  2. ^ Billington, Michael (5 August 2002). "The Coast of Utopia". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Billington, Michael (7 August 2002). "The real thing". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Brantley, Ben (19 February 2007). "Those Storm-Tossed Revolutionaries Reach Port". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Robertson, Campbell (15 May 2007). "‘Spring Awakening’ Gets 11 Tony Nominations". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 
  6. ^ Robertson, Campbell (11 June 2007). "'Coast of Utopia' Breaks a Tony Record for Awards Given to a Play". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Voyage. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21661-7. 
  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21662-5. 
  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Salvage. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21664-1. 

External links[edit]