Theatre Review - Rock ‘n’ Roll

Jacob Fortune-Lloyd and Nancy Carroll in Rock ’n’ Roll [Manuel Harlan]

SET between Czechoslovakia and England, Tom Stoppard’s 2006 play takes in the Prague Spring, Soviet occupation and Charter 77 as well as Sappho’s poetry, free expression and the eponymous rock music.

Rock ‘n’ Roll opens in 1968 – a tumultuous time of political and cultural change – and ends in 1989, another pivotal year. We follow the fortunes of three generations of one family and their friends.

Jan (Jacob Fortune-Lloyd) a Czech postgrad student at Cambridge, leaves England and his communist professor Max (Nathaniel Parker) to return home, his suitcase full of the “socially negative music” he loves.

However, Czechoslovakia’s brief spell of liberalism disintegrates with the Soviet invasion. While Max loses his wife, Eleanor (Nancy Carroll) to cancer, Jan mourns the loss of intellectual freedom.

Music, Stoppard suggests, can also be revolutionary – when Jan’s vinyl collection incurs the wrath of the state, he is inexorably drawn to support the activists and is imprisoned as a dissident.

Nina Raine’s confident revival highlights the importance of music as a subversive force while the dancing interludes on the traverse stage remind us of its unifying power.

Snatches of Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, the Rolling Stones and the Czech band The Plastic People of the Universe mark the passing years.

It’s classic Stoppard, full of intelligent debate with love coming late as an unexpected salve.

Until January 27

Originally published by Camden New Journal