“It is almost five years since Tom Stoppard’s last new play, The Hard Problem. It wasn’t one of his great successes but Stoppard has often hidden his heart in his work and the cerebral fireworks are often at their most engaging when he has a personal connection with the material. There is certainly a connection here in a play that taps into Stoppard’s Jewish roots. Patrick Marber directs a play that begins in Vienna in 1900, where there is a thriving Jewish community, and follows that community through the first 50 years of the 20th century.”
“Theatre producer extraordinaire Sonia Friedman described Tom Stoppard as "without question, our greatest living playwright." So, it's perhaps no surprise that she's the person bringing Leopoldstadt, Stoppard's first new play in five years, to the West End. Friedman was behind the fabulous revival of Stoppard's Travesties a few years ago so we’re excited to see what she does with this new one. Stoppard’s last play, The Hard Problem, wasn’t nearly as brilliant as his earlier work but hopefully Leopoldstadt will be a return to form.”
Vienna in 1900 was the most vibrant city in Europe, humming with artistic and intellectual excitement and a genius for enjoying life. A tenth of the population were Jews. A generation earlier they had been granted full civil rights by the Emperor, Franz Josef. Consequently, hundreds of thousands had fled from the Pale and the pogroms in the East and many found sanctuary in the crowded tenements of the old Jewish quarter, Leopoldstadt.
Tom Stoppard’s new play, directed by Patrick Marber, is an intimate drama with an epic sweep; the story of a family who made good. “My grandfather wore a caftan,” says Hermann, a factory owner, “My father went to the opera in a top hat, and I have the singers to dinner.”
It was not to last. Half a century later, this family, like millions of others, has re-discovered what it means to be Jewish in the first half of the 20th century.
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