Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (play)

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This article is about the play. For the album, see Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (album).

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is a stage play by Tom Stoppard with music by André Previn. It was first performed in 1977. The play criticises the Soviet practice of treating political dissidence as a form of mental illness.[1] Its title derives from the popular mnemonic used by music students to remember the notes on the lines of the treble clef. The cast comprises six actors, but also a full orchestra, which not only provides music throughout the play but also forms an essential part of the action. A chamber-orchestra version also exists.

The play is dedicated to Viktor Fainberg and Vladimir Bukovsky, two Soviet dissidents expelled to the West.[2]:359


The play concerns a dissident, Alexander Ivanov, who is imprisoned in a Soviet mental hospital, from which he will not be released until he admits that his statements against the government were caused by a (non-existent) mental disorder.

In the hospital he shares a cell with a genuinely disturbed schizophrenic, also called Ivanov, who believes himself to have a symphony orchestra under his command. Alexander receives visits from the Doctor and from a Colonel in the KGB.

Meanwhile, his son, Sacha, is seen in a school classroom with a teacher who attempts to convince him of the genuineness of his father's illness.

Production history[edit]

Because of the difficulties in staging a play that requires a full orchestra in addition to the cast of actors, the play is rarely performed.

Its 1977 premiere was staged at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. That performance featured Ian McKellen (Alexander), John Wood (Ivanov) and Patrick Stewart (the Doctor), as well as the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Previn.

In 1978 the play was produced for television by the BBC. The producer was Mark Shivas and direction was shared by Trevor Nunn and Roger Bamford. The filming was undertaken at a live performance at Wembley Conference Centre in April 1978, conducted by Previn. The cast for this production was Ian McKellen (Alexander Ivanov), Ben Kingsley (Ivanov), Frank Windsor (the Doctor), John Woodvine (the Colonel), Barbara Leigh Hunt (the Teacher) and James Harris (aka Jim Harris and James Pickering; Sacha).

Following its BBC production, the play ran at the Mermaid Theatre in London during the summer and autumn of 1978. Cast changes included John Carlisle taking on the role of the Colonel from John Woodvine, who played Alexander Ivanov, Ian McDiarmid (Ivanov), Rowena Cooper (the Teacher) and Rhys McConochie (the Doctor). The role of Sacha was played by a number of young actors including Harris again, and Anthony Robb. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was the last production at the old Mermaid before it was demolished and redeveloped.

Patrick Stewart also appeared in a 1992 production (produced by Charles Johanson for the Orange County Symphony) which toured to four US cities. The cast included his Star Trek: The Next Generation colleagues Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Colm Meaney.

The play was performed in 2002 in Philadelphia as a collaboration between the Wilma Theater and the Philadelphia Orchestra, taking advantage of the fact that Previn had reorchestrated the score for chamber orchestra, making smaller productions possible.

In 2008 it was performed at The Town Hall in New York City by the Boston University College of Fine Arts, directed by Jim Petosa and conducted by Neal Hampton, as part of their Incite Festival. This production was revived (director, Jim Petosa, conducted by William Lumpkin) and played the Boston University Theatre in October 2009 and then again for two performances at Maryland's Olney Theatre Center in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

In July 2008 The Chautauqua Theater Company[1] at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York state, performed the play in conjunction with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for the 25th Anniversary Gala of the theatre company. Directed by Ethan McSweeny with Conductor Timothy Muffitt [2]; Michael Emerson as Alexander and Brian Murray as Ivanov.

in January 2009, London's National Theatre mounted a revival starring Toby Jones, Joseph Millson and Dan Stevens. It featured the pioneering orchestra Southbank Sinfonia.[3]

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was performed at Carnegie Hall by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra on 7 May 2011 as part of the "Spring for Music" Festival.[4] The performance was directed by Cornel Gabara and the speaking cast consisted of Pete Cross, David DeChristopher, Yazan "Zack" Safadi, Kevin Hayes, Actor (Colonel), Benjamin Pryor, and Pamela Tomassetti. The piece was the second half of a program performed by the Toledo Symphony under the guidance of Conductor Stefan Sanderling and with participation of the Glacity Theatre Collective. The two-part evening was composed of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 30 and the play,and marked the Toledo Symphony's debut at Carnegie Hall, as well as the premiere of the full orchestra version of "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour" in New York.


  1. ^ Billington, Michael (19 January 2009). "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Caute, David (2005). The dancer defects: the struggle for cultural supremacy during the Cold War. Oxford University Press. p. 359. ISBN 0-19-927883-0. 
  3. ^ "Theatre review: Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". The Guardian. 19 January 2009. 
  4. ^ James Oestreich, "Something Borrowed and Something New", New York Times, 8 May 2001.

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