Okay, I have to be honest here. I came late to Rock & Roll, and I was a little lost. This is Tom Stoppard‘s latest cold-war-era piece about the fall of Eastern Bloc (in this case, using bootlegged American records to capture the mood of the era, hence the title). I knew the gist going in, but between all the accents, flipping back and forth through time, the revolving sets, the obtuse pop-culture references… well, I was a little lost. And, I never fully recovered.
I feel a little ashamed. I feel ashamed for stepping on all those people’s feet as I dashed across them to my empty centre seat, panicky about getting there before the end of the scene change. But, mostly I feel ashamed about not enjoying a Tom Stoppard play. I love Tom Stoppard. I was really looking forward to this play. So, I felt a little disappointed that I didn’t love Rock & Roll. And, worse, I’ll never know if it was the play’s fault or mine.
So, I’m going to give Tom Stoppard the benefit of my doubt (because I know he’s reading this right now), and go with every critic in London who says this play should earn him the Pulitzer Prize (or whatever the British equivalent is). Personally, I don’t think it’s that brilliant. It’s good, but like all Stoppard plays, it does tend to drag on in bits. Dominic West was great, as always. People talk about stage presence, and he certainly has it, even when finding his way through page eight of an uninterrupted speech about life in Czechoslovakia (at least that’s how I remember it).
I also felt a little ashamed that I didn’t know more about the history behind the play. Although, in fairness, I was in grade school when most of the historical action was taking place. I have to be honest: I thought the Velvet Revolution was a band. So, really, is it any wonder that after getting lost on my way to the theater, I remained lost in the audience? I wasn’t just late to the play; I was late to the history. And for that, I’m truly ashamed.