Friday, August 25, 2006

Rock 'n' Roll - Duke of York's Theatre, 20/08/06

I'm not sure I have the staying power for another 800 word marathon, so I'm going to keep this to the basics!(Again, some plot points are outlined).

Rock 'n' Roll, just like Sunday In The Park..., is just as good as everyone has made it out to be, and if you like to think that guys and gals with guitars really can make a difference, even when they're not trying to do so, well, you'll be in for life-affirming evening. Because that's essentially what this play's about - sure, there's plenty of theory spouted, especially by Brian Cox's world-weary Max (this is a Tom Stoppard play, after all, though I think I followed the debates about Communism better than I did the discussions in Jumpers...!) but the title shows where the heart is.

Jan, played by Rufus Sewell, is a quiet yet charismatic idealist who believes in the redemptive power of rock and roll - and he soon discovers that it's his love of music, rather than his dislike of the communist rulers of his home country Czechoslovakia, that will land him in trouble. Musicians , he explains in one of the key speeches, don't care about the authorities, they just want to be able to play, and that scares the hell out of those in charge. They can cope with the intelligentsia, the almost 'approved' opposition here represented by Jan's flatmate Ferdinand, but anyone who acts outside of the system is much more dangerous. In the end - both in real life and in the play - Czech band Plastic People Of The Universe were arrested and made an example of. It backfired, with press all over the world deriding the trial as a massive over-reaction, but the authorities learnt from their mistakes and started to allow concerts again: "Even Communist governments want to be popular", Jan says.

Sewell makes Jan an incredibly engaging and endearing centre to the play, and for me his was the standout performance. Sinead Cusack is wonderful too, playing Max's classics-obsessed wife Eleanor who struggles to reconcile her body's deterioration with her husband's belief that life and love are simply a series of bioligcal processes.

And, of course, there's one hell of a soundtrack.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I feel like I've seen it thanks to your passionate review. of course, I'd love to get to go... maybe I'll make it!

AnnaWaits said...

You'd love it, I'm sure!

Kaki said...

oh my god... I have seen it here in Czech rep., but experiencing Rufus Sewell as Jan, wow, that'd surely be amazing. It's kinda weird when I read of czech characters played by british actors /the more when I actually know the british actors/. you know, one is used to see czechs playing british all the time .)