17 January 2024, The Tablet

Rock around the bloc

Rock around the bloc

Nancy Carroll in Tom Stoppard’s Rock ’n’ Roll
Manuel Harlan


Rock ’n’ Roll
Hampstead Theatre, London

Cold War
Almeida Theatre, London

The hidden algorithm that creates accidental double bills in theatre schedules has really done its work with a current London twinning – simultaneous shows dealing with music as a tool of dissent in Eastern European countries under Russian Soviet control.

Rock ’n’ Roll – a revival of Tom Stoppard’s 2006 play – follows Jan (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd), a Czech who is a Cambridge PhD student of Max (Nathaniel Parker), a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, when, in 1968, the Soviets take over Czechoslovakia. Part of what we call “Stoppardian” is comic paradox and, in one of the most startling examples, Max approves of the coup from the Fens, while Jan returns to Prague to resist the new regime, part of his dissidence being a love of western rock music that is banned by the authorities as “socially negative”.


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