Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Oprah of the Intelligentsia

Tom Stoppard's Charlie Rose interview was a little more historical than was perhaps expected, but it nonetheless included an enthralling theorization of the art of theatre. And I can't deny it's interesting to learn about the real figures that inspired these plays in the first place.

When Rose asked about the transition of a play from a story to a piece of art, Mr Stoppard pleaded with the audience not to take any notice of what he was about to say because he didn't know what he was talking about. But I don't think we should give much credence to that now, should we?! So here's what he said...

It's about the control of information from the stage to the audience. The art of it is to tell the audience so much and no more, at this moment and at no other, and in the following order and not a different order.

Much of the interview was related to discussion about the real men behind the male leads. When asked which of the characters he most liked, there was an amicable split:

I'm extremely fond of Bakunin, I always have been...and Herzen responds to the main things that I respond to.

About Bakunin specifically, Stoppard made several comments: (I like the first one...)

Bakunin went around everywhere as if he had a firework attached to the back of his trousers...he was a force of nature. He had a fantastic mixture of emotion and intellect. He was physically brave.

Herzen got similar attention:

Herzen is the moral centre of the play. I love his mind and his prose. I love what he had to say about society. I love his honesty, and his honesty about himself. ... His spirit and his heart were huge, and he was a kind man.

Stoppard also mentioned lots of (very recent!) script changes that he's made in Salvage. Most notably, he talks about one of his favourite lines, spoken by (the original) Herzen about Bakunin:

He incubated the germ of a colossal activity for which there is no demand

Stoppard describes how he took this line out of the play just the day before the interview after realising it didn't really fit the speech in which it had been located. He had just loved it so much he'd wanted to include it somewhere in the play!

Lastly, reflecting on the unparalleled demand for Isaiah Berlin's Russian Thinkers as a result of Utopia, Stoppard joked that he himself is like "the Oprah of the Intelligentsia". An apt and amusing analogy!

No clip unfortunately, but on the whole, another great Stoppard / Rose collaboration. The sixth, if I am not mistaken. Hopefully there'll be a number seven...

Meanwhile, today's New York Times has a nice little word for the trilogy. Describing the first two installments as 'exhilarating' it notes:

...these productions pulse with the dizzy, spring-green arrogance and anxiety of a new generation moving as fast as it can towards the future.

Also, YouTube has a brief Two on the Aisle video in which hosts Charles Gross and Jeff Goodman discuss Voyage. Not even remotely of Charlie Rose's calibre, but (marginally!) worth watching anyway.


Kate said...

Looky! Video at:

Kate said...

Nevermind - the video was lame because the interviews were from the opening night of Voyage. But there was a nice montage of clips from Shipwreck.