Rock 'n' Roll (play)

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Rock 'n' Roll
Written byTom Stoppard
Young Esme
State Security Officer 1
State Security Officer 2
Date premiered3 June 2006
Original languageEnglish
SettingPrague, Czechoslovakia and Cambridge, England from 1968 to 1990

Rock 'n' Roll is a play by British playwright Tom Stoppard that premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London, in 2006.

Plot summary[edit]

The play is concerned with the significance of rock and roll in the emergence of the socialist movement in Eastern Bloc Czechoslovakia between the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. Taking place in Cambridge, England and in Prague, the play contrasts the attitudes of a young Czech PhD student and rock music fan, who becomes appalled by the repressive regime in his home country, with those of his British Marxist professor, who unrepentantly continues to believe in the Soviet ideal.

The play takes place over several decades from the late 1960s until 1990, ending with a concert given by The Rolling Stones that year in Prague. Recurrent references are made to a glimpse by one of the main characters of the young Syd Barrett performing Golden Hair. Barrett's physical and mental decline also plays a role in the drama (Barrett in fact died during the play's run). The underground Czech group The Plastic People of the Universe are held up by another character as an ideal of resistance to Communism. The poetry of Sappho is another recurrent motif; its pagan sensualism is implicitly compared with the anarchic erotic force of Rock music.

One of the characters, a Czech writer, is named Ferdinand as an homage to Václav Havel. Havel wrote three plays with a protagonist named Ferdinand Vaněk, a stand-in for Havel himself. These plays were distributed by samizdat and became a symbol of the resistance. A number of Havel's friends then wrote their own Vaněk plays with Ferdinand Vaněk as a character.[1] Stoppard continues in that tradition.

This play is one of several works in Stoppard's oeuvre concerned with artistic dissent against the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia: Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth also concerns this, as does Every Good Boy Deserves Favour and Professional Foul.

Original production[edit]

The original production was staged at the Royal Court Theatre and ran from 3 June until 15 July 2006. It then transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre. The production was directed by Trevor Nunn and featured the following cast:

Taking over from the principal actors mid-run were:

The production closed on 25 February 2007 at the Duke of York's Theatre before an announced transfer to Broadway in the autumn of 2007.

The premiere of the play was attended by first president of the post-Communist Czech Republic and leading figure of the Velvet Revolution, Václav Havel (a friend of Stoppard's) and rock star Mick Jagger, whose band, The Rolling Stones, features in the final scene of the play. Jagger has worked with Stoppard previously, having produced the film Enigma, for which Stoppard wrote the screenplay, and has, along with his production company Jagged Films, "approached" Stoppard "for the movie rights" to the play Rock 'n' Roll.[2]

Prague production[edit]

The play premiered in Prague's historic National Theatre (Národní Divadlo) in February 2007. It features opening and closing performances by The Plastic People of the Universe.

Broadway production[edit]

A Broadway (New York City) run of the play commenced in previews on 19 October 2007 and opened on 4 November 2007 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Several of the original cast members – including Sewell, Cox and Cusack — appeared in the production that is directed by Trevor Nunn. The production had a strictly limited run and closed on 9 March 2008.

Other productions[edit]

The San Francisco production, directed by Carey Perloff, opened at the American Conservatory Theater on 17 September 2008.[3] It then moved to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, who co-produced the production, on 7 November.[4]

The first UK production of the play outside London was at the Library Theatre in Manchester from 13 February to 14 March 2009.[5]

Teatre Lliure of Barcelona presented Rock 'n' Roll, in Catalan and directed by Àlex Rigola, as the opening show for the 2008-2009 season between 18 September and 19 October. [6]

Joy Zinoman, Founding Artistic Director of The Studio Theatre in Washington, DC, will direct the play beginning 22 April 2009.[7]

The Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas produced Rock 'n' Roll beginning 24 April 2009, directed by Alley Theatre Artistic Director Gregory Boyd.[8]

Goodman Theatre of Chicago hosted a production from 2 May through 7 June 2009.[9]

The Canadian Stage Company of Toronto, Ontario featured Rock 'n' Roll in their 2009–2010 season between 28 September and 24 October.[10]

ACT Theatre in Seattle produced the play as part of their 2009 Season between 9 October and 8 November 2009.[11]

Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota produced Rock 'n' Roll beginning 15 January 2010, directed by Mary M. Finnerty.[12]

A production was staged at The Questors Theatre in Ealing, West London, from 19 December 2009 to 2 January 2010.[13]

The San Jose Stage Company presented a new production of Rock 'n' Roll from 10 February to 7 March 2010.[14]

Horipro presented the first Japan production of the play at the Setagaya public theatre in Setagaya, Tokyo, from 3 to 29 August 2010.[15]

Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina will produce Rock 'n' Roll, directed by Simon Donoghue, beginning 24 February 2011.[16]

St. Louis Actors' Studio ( Produced Rock 'n' Roll in November 2010

National Theater of Kosovo will also produce Rock 'n' Roll beginning January 2011.

Yıldız Teknik Üniversitesi Oyuncuları (YUO) started rehearsals in November 2010 for a Turkish production.

The Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, New York produced "Rock 'N' Roll" in 2011 from 4 March to 3 April

The Sydney Theatre, Sydney, production by the Melbourne Theatre Company from 11 April 2008 to 17 May 2008

Moscow's production opened 22 September 2011 in RAMT (Russian Academic Youth Theatre) [17]


  1. ^ Goetz-Stankiewicz, Markéta. The Vaněk Plays, University of British Columbia Press, 1987.
  2. ^ "Jagger Set to Team Up with Stoppard",, accessed 28 April 2007.
  3. ^ American Conservatory Theater: Tom Stoppard's Rock 'n' Roll Archived 14 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "Error | Huntington Theatre Company".
  5. ^
  6. ^ "L'obra "Rock'n'Roll" obrirà la temporada del Teatre Lliure". CCMA. 15 September 2008.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Alley Theatre Official Website - Whoops!".
  9. ^ "Error - General | Goodman Theatre".
  10. ^ "Canadian Stage's mission is to be the leading contemporary performing arts organization in the country".
  11. ^ ACT/Rock 'n' Roll
  12. ^ "Park Square Theatre – St. Paul, Minn".
  13. ^ "Error".
  14. ^ "THE STAGE: Rock 'n' Roll by Tom Stoppard". Archived from the original on 6 February 2010.
  15. ^ "入力エラー".
  16. ^ Belmont Abbey College, Charlotte NC – Academics | Performing Arts – The Performing Arts Season Schedule – Liberal Arts:Catholic Benedictine heritage
  17. ^ "РАМТ. Официальный сайт Российского академического Молодежного театра. О театре".


External links[edit]