Saturday, October 28, 2006

The cosmic cat

The LCT's latest blog post explains the ominous smoking ginger cat that appears in Voyage:

Before seeing Voyage, here's what I knew about ginger cats: One of them appeared with Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's. And Winston Churchill owned several of them throughout his lifetime, taking a feline named Jock to wartime cabinet meetings and even mentioning Jock in his will.

A further fun fact: in Victorian pantomime entertainments for the stage (which took place roughly around the same time as some of the events in The Coast of Utopia,) the Puss 'n Boots figure was sometimes a Ginger Cat. Stoppard chose this figure, in part, to reflect the Cat's popularity at the time.

I have dredged up this trivia because a handful of people have sent us e-mails asking for elucidation on the meaning of the Ginger Cat that appears toward the end of Voyage. The Cat makes an appearance at a fancy-dress party, where the actors appear in various colorful guises. (Turgenev, for instance, played by Jason Butler Harner, turns up in Harlequin drag.)

Just before this soiree, Belinsky and Herzen have had an exchange. Herzen has informed Belinsky that a friend has died in Italy. Stricken by the news, Belinsky asks: "Who is this Moloch that eats his children?" Herzen corrects him, saying that the Moloch isn't at fault. Instead, "it's the Ginger Cat."

Wanting to proceed gingerly through these Annals of Gingerdom, I asked Tom Stoppard for a brief gloss on that moment. He replied, "Essentially, the Ginger Cat is an arbitrary purposeless malign or mischievous force/fate which deflects the individual life within the overarching Hegelian Law of History ("the Moloch") to which populations are subject."

In other words, the Ginger Cat, roughly speaking, represents the fate of the individual.

Go Myspace-friend Martha Plimpton and read her take on this theme, from Voyage rehearsals.

By the way, the postponed opening night for Voyage means that there's an extra public performance of the show on November 5th (previously booked out for the press). Good tix available, says the newsletter.

Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer writes about film-theatre crossover thesps:

I was in New York last weekend to see "Voyage," the first play in Tom Stoppard's trilogy "The Coast of Utopia." It's minor Stoppard: flabby and repetitive philosophizing without much emotional underpinning, the first inconclusive third of a nine-hour event. But this drama set in 1830s Russia was welcome in one way: Its cast held half a dozen noted movie actors.

Ethan Hawke had the showiest role as young, pseudo-political blowhard Michael Bakunin. Amy Irving played his mother, Jennifer Ehle and Martha Plimpton two of his sisters, Billy Crudup and Josh Hamilton his friends. All have theater experience but plenty of film credits, too. They represent a healthy cross-culture that hasn't thrived until recently. [...]

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