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Rock 'n' Roll

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Rock ’n’ Roll is an electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary. It is 1968 and the world is ablaze with rebellion, accompanied by a sound track of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Clutching his prized collection of rock albums, Jan, a Cambridge graduate student, returns to his homeland of Czechoslovakia just as Soviet tanks roll into Prague. When securit Rock ’n’ Roll is an electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary. It is 1968 and the world is ablaze with rebellion, accompanied by a sound track of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Clutching his prized collection of rock albums, Jan, a Cambridge graduate student, returns to his homeland of Czechoslovakia just as Soviet tanks roll into Prague. When security forces tighten their grip on artistic expression, Jan is inexorably drawn toward a dangerous act of dissent. Back in England, Jan’s volcanic mentor, Max, faces a war of his own as his free-spirited daughter and his cancer-stricken wife attempt to break through his walls of academic and emotional obstinacy. Over the next twenty years of love, espionage, chance, and loss, the extraordinary lives of Jan and Max spin and intersect until an unexpected reunion forces them to see what is truly worth the fight.


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Rock ’n’ Roll is an electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary. It is 1968 and the world is ablaze with rebellion, accompanied by a sound track of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Clutching his prized collection of rock albums, Jan, a Cambridge graduate student, returns to his homeland of Czechoslovakia just as Soviet tanks roll into Prague. When securit Rock ’n’ Roll is an electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary. It is 1968 and the world is ablaze with rebellion, accompanied by a sound track of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Clutching his prized collection of rock albums, Jan, a Cambridge graduate student, returns to his homeland of Czechoslovakia just as Soviet tanks roll into Prague. When security forces tighten their grip on artistic expression, Jan is inexorably drawn toward a dangerous act of dissent. Back in England, Jan’s volcanic mentor, Max, faces a war of his own as his free-spirited daughter and his cancer-stricken wife attempt to break through his walls of academic and emotional obstinacy. Over the next twenty years of love, espionage, chance, and loss, the extraordinary lives of Jan and Max spin and intersect until an unexpected reunion forces them to see what is truly worth the fight.

30 review for Rock 'n' Roll

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    For you, freedom means, ‘Leave me alone.’ For the masses it means, ‘Give me a chance.’ Wonderful exposition on the possibility of dissent. Layered with pop culture, the scene of Rock ‘N’ Roll switches back and forth between Cambridge and Prague from 1968 to 1992. A Czech grad student leaves the UK to return to Czechoslovakia as the Prague Spring comes to an untidy end. His academic advisor at Cambridge is a lifelong Marxist and myriad family dramas unfold across decades while the turntable provid For you, freedom means, ‘Leave me alone.’ For the masses it means, ‘Give me a chance.’ Wonderful exposition on the possibility of dissent. Layered with pop culture, the scene of Rock ‘N’ Roll switches back and forth between Cambridge and Prague from 1968 to 1992. A Czech grad student leaves the UK to return to Czechoslovakia as the Prague Spring comes to an untidy end. His academic advisor at Cambridge is a lifelong Marxist and myriad family dramas unfold across decades while the turntable provides a soundtrack. There’s an intriguing rumination on the idea Moral Exhibitionism. There’s some obvious weight to that. The Velvet Revolution occurs (while The Velvet Underground dissemble after their famed legacy—Brian Eno said everyone who bought their first album started their own band) and life proceeds. The life of Syd Barrett is an interesting metaphor for such, maybe Gorbachev as well. Rock ‘n’ Roll was very reminiscent of Stoppard’s Arcadia, Open doors leading to gardens and High Table gossip. 4.6 stars— I’d love to see this performed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This does all of the things you would expect a play about 1968 in Czechoslovakia and up to the fall of the Soviet Union and a bit beyond would do. Essentially, expect to have your heart ripped out by Stoppard here. The criminality of Socialism is no where better described than in works like this or The Unbearable Lightness of Being where highly educated people are forced to work in menial jobs as a rather ironic form of punishment for people supposed to believe in the nobility of the working cla This does all of the things you would expect a play about 1968 in Czechoslovakia and up to the fall of the Soviet Union and a bit beyond would do. Essentially, expect to have your heart ripped out by Stoppard here. The criminality of Socialism is no where better described than in works like this or The Unbearable Lightness of Being where highly educated people are forced to work in menial jobs as a rather ironic form of punishment for people supposed to believe in the nobility of the working class. Anyway, I’m not sure if I was meant to like any of the characters in this play – but I found them all rather unlikeable. Perhaps the Professor’s wife was the most likeable. I found the idea that Rock ‘n’ Roll can save the world all a bit daft and a theme that seemed to be undermined by the focus on Sid Barrett, presented as a kind of Pan character even after his brain is fried with drugs. If that is revolution perhaps electrodes to the genitals isn’t so bad after all. Despite virtually none of the characters being all that likeable and the overall theme seeming a little daft to me, you know, the redemptive power of music or some such nonsense, this tells an important story about the horrors of societies that spend too much time trying to control what individuals think. Capitalism is much better at this than Socialism – it knows that if you give people total freedom to think they won’t bother thinking at all. A bit like watching a play about the holocaust – don’t expect to be ‘entertained’. Although, this is Stoppard.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tung

    The newest work from a master playwright. The story focuses on a grad student named Jan who returns to his home country of Czechoslovakia around the same time of the Soviet invasion; and his mentor Max who is dealing with family issues back home in England. The play traces their politically active lives over the course of two decades. The story’s title comes from its reliance upon the revolutionary roots of music and the power of art to transform society via acts of rebellion (although I am simp The newest work from a master playwright. The story focuses on a grad student named Jan who returns to his home country of Czechoslovakia around the same time of the Soviet invasion; and his mentor Max who is dealing with family issues back home in England. The play traces their politically active lives over the course of two decades. The story’s title comes from its reliance upon the revolutionary roots of music and the power of art to transform society via acts of rebellion (although I am simplifying Stoppard’s thesis quite a bit to save you the headache). It probably says something about my character that I found this play largely overblown. First, the Czech-Soviet politics angle is done far better in Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Second, I find the use of music as a transformative medium to be cliché and pretentious. Thirdly, as Stoppard reveals in his introductory essay, the whole play is based on essays written by Vaclav Havel, which the intellectual in me admires, but the reader in me found deathly boring. Stoppard is a great playwright, so the dialogue is natural and tight, and the character development via scenes is done well. But in the end, I found myself plowing through to the end rather than gripped by the drama. Not a recommended read from me, sorry.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Digging into my holiday presents early with this one, and devoured it in two days. (Then again, plays tend to be short... all dialogue and action must be performable in a single sitting not to exceed three hours and bear in mind that it usually takes less time to read in your head what you would otherwise say aloud.) The plot of this one is easily summarized, so I'll dispense with it quickly. Rock 'N' Roll follows the lives of a communist Cambridge professor and his Czech protege in snapshots fr Digging into my holiday presents early with this one, and devoured it in two days. (Then again, plays tend to be short... all dialogue and action must be performable in a single sitting not to exceed three hours and bear in mind that it usually takes less time to read in your head what you would otherwise say aloud.) The plot of this one is easily summarized, so I'll dispense with it quickly. Rock 'N' Roll follows the lives of a communist Cambridge professor and his Czech protege in snapshots from 1968-1990, with each scene bookended by song clips appropriate to the period (predominantly by Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, and the Rolling Stones), in the process asking (among many possible interpretations) "Should rebels without a cause give pause?" From that standpoint, I enjoyed the story, though Stoppard's snapshot approach (of necessity given the 22 year span of action) robs the reader of subject matter that could have been given novelistic nuance. Reading plays can be a real mixed bag, especially if you haven't yet seen a production of the show. Some playwrights remain conscious of their reading audience when their works are published, and so settings, costumes, stage action, and (one proposed) character motivation are more expressly telegraphed, offering a fairly vivid mental picture. In other cases, such as this one, the published version represents but a bare skeleton of the actual show... almost exclusively dialogue. That can make comprehension a real challenge, since subtext and context go a long way toward communicating ideas and emotions alike. One typical passage (p. 86): ESME (sudden) Look, there's some wine. JAN No ... ESME Or ... JAN No. (pause: the books) So, what are you...? ESME Oh, just ... keeping occupied. Who's Dr. Chamberlain? JAN You know. Lenka. ESME Oh. Lenka. I didn't ... She wasn't married in those days. JAN (small laugh) No, of course not. Oh, you mean when ... ESME Yes. What? JAN About Max. ESME That's what I meant. This is much more Pinter than Stoppard, and it makes the play into a puzzle box of language. Oh, there are still the occasional Stoppardian rants, riffs, and epigrams -- "Doing something is the same as not doing it -- grief sucks value out of the world like a bomb sucks out the oxygen." (p. 91) -- is one great such bit, but for the most part Stoppard seems to be relying on the mise en scene along with actors' performances to impart meaning and dramatic arc. This play therefore requires a fairly careful read. I found myself repeatedly stopping and rereading passages where later information imparted to them a new meaning (that may well have come across to the audience right off the bat). That was actually quite a bit of fun, but I'm not sure it's the sort of exercise Stoppard intended for his readers. However, it's hard to know, as Stoppard is such a clever craftsman. In Rock 'N' Roll he comes across as extremely careful to impart new information explicitly only once, and usually a page or two AFTER his characters have begun to engage on a subject, leading to a string of double, triple entendres, and a-ha audience moments. There is deliberate poetry at work in the language (as with Mamet), but the principle virtue of this work lies in its ambiguity. I imagine different directors and performers could make many distinct meals from such lean meat depending on whether they wish to emphasize politics, history, relationships, marriage, revolutions, the fallout of the '60s, culture wars, Sappho's poetry, punk music, rock music, the relationship of pop music to culture, the respective merits of communism, socialism, and capitalism, etc. The seeds for exploration of all these themes lie in this play, but the intrinsic nature of this work that leaves them merely sketched makes this less than a fully satisfying read. Ironically given the play's title, I suspect you could remove (or change) some or all of the musical interstitials without changing the show's meaning or impact. Stoppard implies as much in his Author's Notes and also offers a 10 page Introduction as a kind of Cliff's Notes to what his influences were and what he set about to do. The Author's Notes are part of the play proper (essentially staging instructions), but the Introduction is bonus material. If you do pick this book up, I strongly suggest you read the Notes and play first before you take in this Introduction answer key so that Stoppard's inadvertent puzzle box will have greater opportunity to reveal its many facets. The casually curious might enjoy GoodReader Micole's alternate take, that I think contains a great many insights about this work (chiefly feminist).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Bought this in London last summer after seeing the play, which was complex, funny, sad and amazing. For me, it came down to the heartbreak of the possibility that your heroes aren't what they seem, and the crushing realization that your loyalties/ideals/dreams may have been misplaced all along. Bought this in London last summer after seeing the play, which was complex, funny, sad and amazing. For me, it came down to the heartbreak of the possibility that your heroes aren't what they seem, and the crushing realization that your loyalties/ideals/dreams may have been misplaced all along.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Stoppard’s most recent play is a tale of political and social revolution set to the music of rock and roll, with a meditation on ideology’s inflexibilities chucked in for balance. Set in Cambridge and Czechoslovakia in shifting scenes that jump forward from 1968 to 1990. An old leftie has to come to grips with the failures and then the fall of European communism. Two Czech friends battle over signing letters of protest—the nihilist rock and roller refuses to sign one, then the journalist/politic Stoppard’s most recent play is a tale of political and social revolution set to the music of rock and roll, with a meditation on ideology’s inflexibilities chucked in for balance. Set in Cambridge and Czechoslovakia in shifting scenes that jump forward from 1968 to 1990. An old leftie has to come to grips with the failures and then the fall of European communism. Two Czech friends battle over signing letters of protest—the nihilist rock and roller refuses to sign one, then the journalist/political activist refuses to sign one for a jailed punk rocker, then everyone signs the Charter 77. The play has Stoppard’s signature wit and facility with dialogue but in the end I felt there was less there than usual. It flirts with autobiography but even in his introduction he shies away from that, copping to some associative coincidences. What is wonderful in the play is its humanity, the seeing beauty not in the victors but in the tragic victims—Syd Barrett, for example, the Great Ideologue’s wife and daughter, for another.

  7. 4 out of 5

    M. H.

    On the surface is a play full of sex, politics & rock 'n' roll. Underneath that surface is a yearning to change the world for the better. A yearning play that is both personal and symbolic. (likely MPAA "R" for strong language) Note: excellent monologues for men 20-60 and women 40+. This play spans nearly thirty years and takes place near Cambridge University, England and in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Music is hugely important to this play a number of very specific rock 'n' roll songs are referenced On the surface is a play full of sex, politics & rock 'n' roll. Underneath that surface is a yearning to change the world for the better. A yearning play that is both personal and symbolic. (likely MPAA "R" for strong language) Note: excellent monologues for men 20-60 and women 40+. This play spans nearly thirty years and takes place near Cambridge University, England and in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Music is hugely important to this play a number of very specific rock 'n' roll songs are referenced. Max is married to Eleanor and while she struggles with the a private fight against cancer (which takes her breasts, her uterus, her ovaries and eventually her life) Max is struggling with the very public fights of students against the Communist Party, against parties in general. Because Max believes in Communism, maybe not as it is. Meanwhile Jan is concerned for his country -Czechoslovakia-which is being taken over by Communist Russia. His greatest mourning is for his rock 'n' roll albums.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Merilee

    Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite contemporary playwrights and this 2006 play does not disappoint (I will see the play performed next week in Toronto). The Czech born Stoppard returns to his roots with this play about the years between the Prague Spring of 1969 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The book is dedicated to Stoppard's friend, Vaclav Havel. I would say that Havel is also S's hero, but I think that he doesn't believe in heros, as he has one of his leading characters, Jan, say: "Well, Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite contemporary playwrights and this 2006 play does not disappoint (I will see the play performed next week in Toronto). The Czech born Stoppard returns to his roots with this play about the years between the Prague Spring of 1969 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The book is dedicated to Stoppard's friend, Vaclav Havel. I would say that Havel is also S's hero, but I think that he doesn't believe in heros, as he has one of his leading characters, Jan, say: "Well, it's very annoying. Heroic acts don't spring from your beliefs. I believe the same as you do. They spring from your character. It's not the action of a friend to point out that your character is more heroic than mine. It pisses me off. Why do you do it? You'll be insufferable now."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mely

    Like a lot of Stoppard plays, Rock 'N' Roll bears a dense weight of ambition, exposition, and information; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it slips between multiple time periods; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it's concerned with the slippage between personal connection and political event, how history shapes the individual and the individual shapes history. Most of those other Stoppard plays are much better. Full review: https://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/3... Like a lot of Stoppard plays, Rock 'N' Roll bears a dense weight of ambition, exposition, and information; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it slips between multiple time periods; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it's concerned with the slippage between personal connection and political event, how history shapes the individual and the individual shapes history. Most of those other Stoppard plays are much better. Full review: https://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/3...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tom O'Brien

    This is the first Stoppard I've read that haven't particularly liked. While it's technically and structurally strong, the characters feel too much like vehicles for political propositions for my taste, without committing to them as that. It also lacks the verbal dexteritiy I expect from Tom Stoppard, but that's more my problem than his, I acknowledge. This is the first Stoppard I've read that haven't particularly liked. While it's technically and structurally strong, the characters feel too much like vehicles for political propositions for my taste, without committing to them as that. It also lacks the verbal dexteritiy I expect from Tom Stoppard, but that's more my problem than his, I acknowledge.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tova

    This play is quite interesting. It packs a lot of history, but is really just about people trying to live their lives. So far I’m loving playing Lenka.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    A friend introduced me to Stoppard in school, before I moved to Czechia, and it was long after that I realized his connection.  This is a lovely rediscussion of dissent in a way that hopefully was more accessible to western audiences than some of the samizdat.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    I first heard of this Tom Stoppard play when I was reading Disturbing the Peace by Václav Havel. The play was referred to as a companion piece to the book in one of the GR reviews. Stoppard is an admirer of Havel. The play overlaps with the events of Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution and ensuing years. Rock ‘n’ Roll was first performed in London on June 3, 2006 and in North America in New York City on October 19, 2007. The play is set in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Cambridge, England from 19 I first heard of this Tom Stoppard play when I was reading Disturbing the Peace by Václav Havel. The play was referred to as a companion piece to the book in one of the GR reviews. Stoppard is an admirer of Havel. The play overlaps with the events of Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution and ensuing years. Rock ‘n’ Roll was first performed in London on June 3, 2006 and in North America in New York City on October 19, 2007. The play is set in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Cambridge, England from 1968 to 1990. From January into August 1968, under the rule of Communist Party leader Alexander Dubček, Czechoslovakians experienced the Prague Spring. In August, Soviet and other Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. This led to the overthrow of Dubček and to what came to be known as the normalization process. Less than a month after the invasion, Plastic People of the Universe was formed. … The Plastic People of the Universe (PPU) is a rock band from Prague, Czech Republic. It was the foremost representative of Prague's underground culture (1968–1989). This avant-garde group went against the grain of the Communist regime and due to its non-conformism often suffered serious problems such as arrests. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Plas... Some knowledge about the history of the era is helpful but there is a chronology of events from 1967 to 1990 at the end of the book. I wish I had noticed that before I started reading. In addition to Disturbing the Peace, 1968: The Year that Rocked the World also covers the events in Czechoslovakia. I give this book a strong three stars. If I took the time to read it again and tried to follow the character development more closely, I can imagine it moving up to four stars. I also think there is an edition that includes a CD of the featured music. Since I am not much of a rock lyric fan, I can only wonder about how marvelously the music and staging must have fit into the action. The script is very exact about the selection and timing of the rock music.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Tom Stoppard’s play Rock ‘n’ Roll spans twenty years, chronicles the dissolution of communism in Czechoslovakia, and as is the case with several of Stoppard’s works, intersects history with the characters’ personal lives. Rock ‘n’ Roll explores a time when “living in truth” requires courage, and Stoppard defines “living in truth” as any course by which someone resists Communist manipulation. In Rock ‘n’ Roll this means listening to rock music and attending rock concerts. Stoppard’s genius lies i Tom Stoppard’s play Rock ‘n’ Roll spans twenty years, chronicles the dissolution of communism in Czechoslovakia, and as is the case with several of Stoppard’s works, intersects history with the characters’ personal lives. Rock ‘n’ Roll explores a time when “living in truth” requires courage, and Stoppard defines “living in truth” as any course by which someone resists Communist manipulation. In Rock ‘n’ Roll this means listening to rock music and attending rock concerts. Stoppard’s genius lies in covering a broad range of time and events but narrowing his focus to specific moments. For example, Communism’s termination is seen both culturally with rock music and personally through Max, a communist Marxist living in England. Stoppard shows how Max’s ideals about Communism crumble, and Max’s family witnesses the collapse. Max defends Communism in Act I. When he speaks to Eleanor, his cancer-stricken wife, Max states, “Why do people go on as if there’s a danger we might forget Communism’s crimes, when the danger is we’ll forget its achievements? I’ve stayed in because they meant so much to me.” As the play continues, Max still defends Communism while acknowledging its faults: “…it all went wrong when the workers weren’t trusted to manage the workplace.” Ultimately, he comes to realize that the system to which he so passionately gave his life was a mistake. Furthermore, it’s interesting that when the play concludes Max is suffering from early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. If he were not so afflicted, how would he remember Communism’s legacy? How would he reconcile and separate the party’s failures from his personal limitations? Rock ‘n’ Roll is an important play that weaves together history, love, politics, and music. In Stoppard’s words, it reminds readers that “culture is politics.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A perfect marriage of the personal and the political occur in Stoppard's insightful, smaller work from 2006. Concerned as most of his work is with the ideological--as it loses verve under oppression or repression of the human spirit--his characters here leap from the page (for the most part; per usual, his side characters sometimes suffer at the hand of adding interesting vocal rhythms to the piece). The lives of British Communist Max and his pupil Jan intersect across the years of the aging Comm A perfect marriage of the personal and the political occur in Stoppard's insightful, smaller work from 2006. Concerned as most of his work is with the ideological--as it loses verve under oppression or repression of the human spirit--his characters here leap from the page (for the most part; per usual, his side characters sometimes suffer at the hand of adding interesting vocal rhythms to the piece). The lives of British Communist Max and his pupil Jan intersect across the years of the aging Communist regime in the 1980s. At the play's start, Jan leaves the UK for Prague, where he intends to save socialism. As the noose begins to tighten around personal freedoms there, he clings to his beloved record collection, where he finds that personal choice and expression still exist. His association with The Plastic People of the Universe, one of many rebellious Czech rock bands, gives him hope for a better future. Meanwhile, Max sits at home, a dinosaur politico from another age who can't handle the coming death of his fiery wife; unbeknown to most of the family, his youngest daughter pines for the far away Jan. Ultimately, like many of Stoppard's play, Rock'n'Roll is a love story. Maybe a much purer love story than the one depicted in his trilogy The Coast of Utopia, as it concerns more present matters and a brighter, more involved set of lovers. Big ideas are buoyed by the personalities depicted here, but those big ideas rest on the laurels of feeling loved, or knowing what it is to reach someone. Music does that, as Stoppard clearly states here, and so does revolution--in any form.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And from reading some of the reviews about this play on a website about books it's never been more apparent. This was not, and has never been, a play intended to be read. The title is a signifier to the political landscape out of which the revolutionary social scenes of late 60s Europe emerged. It's Stoppard's most personal play, not just because of the great script, but because of the way he utilises music a Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And from reading some of the reviews about this play on a website about books it's never been more apparent. This was not, and has never been, a play intended to be read. The title is a signifier to the political landscape out of which the revolutionary social scenes of late 60s Europe emerged. It's Stoppard's most personal play, not just because of the great script, but because of the way he utilises music as a medium to bolster the impact of his writing. This play is called Rock 'n' Roll for a reason, and Stoppard fully expected his script to be coupled with the fantastic soundtrack that the production was intended for. To not take that into account is to do the writer a massive disservice. It's a fantastic play and I hope it get's a re-run or a film reboot at some point in the future. Oh and by the way, yeah, the piper on the wall is definitely Syd Barrett.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    I'm tempted to dismiss this as pure excruciating drivel, but I can only judge it by the NYC production, which was one of the most boring things I've ever had to sit through in my life. Trevor Nunn worked his own special brand of evil on this play, drawing out about 45 minutes worth of plot into over three hours of talk talk talk and then more talk, with extended blackouts so that the turntable set could be moved about thirty degrees, while the audience got to sit in near total darkness listening I'm tempted to dismiss this as pure excruciating drivel, but I can only judge it by the NYC production, which was one of the most boring things I've ever had to sit through in my life. Trevor Nunn worked his own special brand of evil on this play, drawing out about 45 minutes worth of plot into over three hours of talk talk talk and then more talk, with extended blackouts so that the turntable set could be moved about thirty degrees, while the audience got to sit in near total darkness listening to badly amplified music while reading projections detailing the band personnel of each song. Unforgiveable. No more Stoppard for me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Molly Willis

    A clever, intelligent representation of both Rock N Roll music and the Czechoslovakian conflict in the 70s and most importantly, how they are intertwined. For somebody young like me, this play requires a LOT of research, but my God is it worth it. The characters are presented with incredible realism. Most are intelligent, some are just beautiful people. Tom Stoppard uses history, music, wit and characterisation so perfectly that you get completely lost and entertained. This play has made such an i A clever, intelligent representation of both Rock N Roll music and the Czechoslovakian conflict in the 70s and most importantly, how they are intertwined. For somebody young like me, this play requires a LOT of research, but my God is it worth it. The characters are presented with incredible realism. Most are intelligent, some are just beautiful people. Tom Stoppard uses history, music, wit and characterisation so perfectly that you get completely lost and entertained. This play has made such an impact on me that I am performing Esme's "Syd Barrett was the Piper" monologue for my drama exam. Tip: play the music in the stage directions, everything makes sense.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Aletvin

    This should have been terrific, with its focus on the resistance of the dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia and the role of rock 'n' roll in the youth rebellion of the 60s and 70s. It's witty and smart, and Stoppard's clearly passionate about the subject (his own family were refugees from C.), but it ends up feeling awfully didactic. I found it hard to sympathize with Max, a British academic/armchair communist, and found the human relationships oddly bloodless. But it was fun looking up clips This should have been terrific, with its focus on the resistance of the dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia and the role of rock 'n' roll in the youth rebellion of the 60s and 70s. It's witty and smart, and Stoppard's clearly passionate about the subject (his own family were refugees from C.), but it ends up feeling awfully didactic. I found it hard to sympathize with Max, a British academic/armchair communist, and found the human relationships oddly bloodless. But it was fun looking up clips of The Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd on YouTube.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    I'm not sure I understand this play. I assume it would be better in performance. But on the page, it falls short for me. Too much talking about ideas, and arguments over ideologies, without enough interpersonal drama. Not that there isn't any, but it takes a clear backseat to politics. The subplot involving Syd Barrett was interesting, though, and I enjoyed the use of him as the "Piper" at the beginning. So, I didn't really like the play, but I have got to be missing something because it's suppos I'm not sure I understand this play. I assume it would be better in performance. But on the page, it falls short for me. Too much talking about ideas, and arguments over ideologies, without enough interpersonal drama. Not that there isn't any, but it takes a clear backseat to politics. The subplot involving Syd Barrett was interesting, though, and I enjoyed the use of him as the "Piper" at the beginning. So, I didn't really like the play, but I have got to be missing something because it's supposed to be good.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I don't know why it took me so long to read this work by a writer I admire, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. As usual there are a lot of ideas in play and I'd love to see those ideas illuminated in a good production; reading any play is always half a loaf at best. Rock n' Roll isn't as tightly constructed a work as Stoppard's masterpiece Arcadia; it rolls to a stop rather than ending. Yet the way Stoppard blends politics, music, sex, death, and generational change here is very exciting. Strongly r I don't know why it took me so long to read this work by a writer I admire, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. As usual there are a lot of ideas in play and I'd love to see those ideas illuminated in a good production; reading any play is always half a loaf at best. Rock n' Roll isn't as tightly constructed a work as Stoppard's masterpiece Arcadia; it rolls to a stop rather than ending. Yet the way Stoppard blends politics, music, sex, death, and generational change here is very exciting. Strongly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is much better on the stage than on the page. I will never not love Alice, but the relationships are *hard* to parse in text (or maybe that's just me; an actor or director would likely get a little more from it), and the politics do not come across well. I don't know if this is one of Stoppard's better works, or if it's just more technically adept than much of his previous work, or what. (Also, Plastic People of Universe, as a band, *suck*.) This is much better on the stage than on the page. I will never not love Alice, but the relationships are *hard* to parse in text (or maybe that's just me; an actor or director would likely get a little more from it), and the politics do not come across well. I don't know if this is one of Stoppard's better works, or if it's just more technically adept than much of his previous work, or what. (Also, Plastic People of Universe, as a band, *suck*.)

  23. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Watching Cahoot's Macbeth has made me think about this play again. I went to see it in a negative frame of mind. Fictional adaptation of history is what happens when writers run out of ideas. Not so, not so. This is such a good play. It imparts something that is important for people in soft societies to understand. Popular culture in a place like Czechoslovakia in the 1960s was really important. It was integral to politics.It changed lives. People fought for it and died for it. Watching Cahoot's Macbeth has made me think about this play again. I went to see it in a negative frame of mind. Fictional adaptation of history is what happens when writers run out of ideas. Not so, not so. This is such a good play. It imparts something that is important for people in soft societies to understand. Popular culture in a place like Czechoslovakia in the 1960s was really important. It was integral to politics.It changed lives. People fought for it and died for it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michael P.

    A bit of a let down after the masterpiece trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA, but story of the fall of Communism in the Chech republic is still great. Rock 'n Roll as a metaphor for rebellion against even such a repressive regime works very well, and is historically accurate. Most of the music is great too, though the Chech band is pretty terrible. See this play if you can find a good production, and read it if you can't. A bit of a let down after the masterpiece trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA, but story of the fall of Communism in the Chech republic is still great. Rock 'n Roll as a metaphor for rebellion against even such a repressive regime works very well, and is historically accurate. Most of the music is great too, though the Chech band is pretty terrible. See this play if you can find a good production, and read it if you can't.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chuck O'Connor

    I need to see this live. I often can be moved by plays as read but Stoppard's characters have a tendency to live within ideology which keeps them from being people I can connect with. The theatricality of using rock and roll to move the story through the political periodicity of the Czech revolution is clever but has no impact simply described on the page. I think I'd like this as a show but as a read I don't find the characters struggle emotional enough to carry me through the story. I need to see this live. I often can be moved by plays as read but Stoppard's characters have a tendency to live within ideology which keeps them from being people I can connect with. The theatricality of using rock and roll to move the story through the political periodicity of the Czech revolution is clever but has no impact simply described on the page. I think I'd like this as a show but as a read I don't find the characters struggle emotional enough to carry me through the story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    James

    Halfway through, I remembered why Stoppard bothers me: his protagonists generally embody all the same traits that make Hamlet so infuriating. That is, they're all talk and no action. Otherwise, the remaining characters are interesting and I wish the play had been about the lot of them, excising Jan altogether. Good quote: “You think human nature is a beast, that it must be put in a cage. But it's the cage that makes the animal bad.” Halfway through, I remembered why Stoppard bothers me: his protagonists generally embody all the same traits that make Hamlet so infuriating. That is, they're all talk and no action. Otherwise, the remaining characters are interesting and I wish the play had been about the lot of them, excising Jan altogether. Good quote: “You think human nature is a beast, that it must be put in a cage. But it's the cage that makes the animal bad.”

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    As is typical for him, Stoppard has a lot of different ideas in play in Rock ’n’ Roll—about ideals and reality, nonconformity and resistance, the physical and the mystical, poetry and rock ’n’ roll, loyalty and love—but somehow he weaves all the knotty, colorful threads into a brilliant tapestry. No one writes passionate intellectualism quite like Stoppard, and the dogged, humanistic optimism of this particular play is touching.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This has been called Stoppard's most personal and emotional play, and I can see why. It does not, however, lack the allusions, masterful dialog, and slightly odd characters that mark his other works. A fascinating exploration of what it means to be a dissident, art, democracy, and totalitarianism. This has been called Stoppard's most personal and emotional play, and I can see why. It does not, however, lack the allusions, masterful dialog, and slightly odd characters that mark his other works. A fascinating exploration of what it means to be a dissident, art, democracy, and totalitarianism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Stanton

    Theater at its best, burning with intellect and humanity. I've previously found Stoppard to be too cerebral, too clever; this play has forced me to reconsider both the playwright and his body of work. Spanning the Prague Spring in 1968 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, this play deals with love, political disillusionment, and freedom. Theater at its best, burning with intellect and humanity. I've previously found Stoppard to be too cerebral, too clever; this play has forced me to reconsider both the playwright and his body of work. Spanning the Prague Spring in 1968 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, this play deals with love, political disillusionment, and freedom.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Saw it in London, loved it, absolutely had to read it. The staging blew me away. Reading it helped me think more deeply about its themes. It explores the relationship between music, though it could be any artistic expression of the people, to The State which wishes to control them. Hard to sum up, but a really exciting work.

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