Exploring the greatest new and classic plays

SUPPORT OUR PODCAST BY BECOMING A PATRON
CLICK HERE

 

 

 

033 – Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard

Sep 9, 2021 | Podcast Episodes | 4 comments

Tom Stoppard’s latest play Leopoldstadt takes its name from the Jewish district of Vienna, and follows the fortunes and fates of an extended Jewish family as they live through the convulsive events of the first half of the twentieth century. As the play begins in 1899, when Vienna had claim to be the cultural capital of Europe, successful Jewish business man Hermann Merz and his family have cause to hope their hard-earned prosperity and security will be long-lasting. Over the next fifty years however we witness their diaspora and decline through the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the First World War, through the Anschluss in 1938 and the death camps that followed, to 1955 when the world is attempting to process the horror and guilt from the second world war.

The play is a sweeping work of history and ideas which addresses profound moral questions of identity, memory and prejudice that remain insistently relevant in our time.  It is both intellectually stimulating and piercingly poignant. It is also a very personal play, because it is in part based on Stoppard’s own remarkable family history. He himself was a Jewish refugee, who as a boy fled the Nazis in Czechoslovakia in 1938, escaping finally to England after the war, and where throughout much of his adult life he lived unaware of his Jewish ancestry or the terrible tragedies that befell them.

Tom Stoppard is of course one of the most acclaimed and prolific playwrights of our time, renowned for his intellectual brilliance and wit in plays such as Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are Dead, The Real Inspector Hound, Jumpers, Travesties, Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia and The Hard Problem, to name a selected few. Written as he entered his eighties Leopoldstadt is a towering achievement.

The play opened in London’s West End in January 2020, only to be prematurely closed by the first pandemic lockdown a few weeks later. Happily it has been revived for another London run this Autumn. I’m delighted to be joined in this episode to talk about the play by Patrick Marber, who directed both London productions. Patrick is uniquely qualified to share insights into this play and Stoppard’s work, having also recently directed Travesties in London and New York.

 

Patrick Marber

Patrick Marber is a writer, director, actor and comedian. Patrick began his career as a stand-up comedian, before becoming a writer and cast member on the radio shows On the Hour and Knowing Me, Knowing You, and their television spinoffs The Day Today and Knowing Me, Knowing You… with Alan Partridge.

In addition to his acclaimed credits as a director, Patrick is the author of a dozen plays including Dealer’s Choice, Closer, Howard Katz and The Red Lion, as well as adaptations of plays by Strindberg (After Miss Julie), Moliere (Don Juan in Soho), Turgenev (A Month in the Country) and Ibsen (Hedda Gabler). He is also a screenwriter, adapting his play Closer into the 2004 film directed by Mike Nichols, as well as the screenplays for Asylum and Notes on a Scandal.

Recommended Play

Patrick recommended The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer.

Photo © Marc Brenner
We have footnotes for this episode …

The Footnotes to our episode on Tom Stoppard’s majestic play Leopoldstadt include observations on the origins of its title, the metaphoric resonances of the child’s game, Cat’s Cradle, and how Gustav Klimt’s art is an apt choice to help paint the play’s story.​

Patreon Page

BECOME A PATRON!

Since I launched The Play Podcast in April 2020, I have managed to eschew any form of advertising or sponsorship, and I would like to continue to produce the podcast without doing so. I therefore invite you to help me to continue to make the podcast by becoming a Patron.
Additional benefits available to Patrons include Footnotes on the plays covered in the podcast, as well as exclusive access to The Play Review.

For details click here

Thank you very much for listening and for your support.
Douglas

The Texts
If you are interested in buying the play text or other related books, we’d be delighted if you choose to purchase them by following the links below. We will earn a small commission on every book you purchase, which helps to keep the podcast going. Through our selected partners Bookshop.org and Blackwell’s you will also be supporting independent bookshops. Thank you.

4 Comments

  1. Joseph Dunne-Howrie

    Hi,

    When I play this episode from my Google podcast provider the Happy Days episode plays instead. Do you know how I can find the Leopoldstadt one?

    Reply
    • Douglas Schatz

      Hi Joseph
      The Leopoldstadt episode seems to be up on Google Podcasts. Is this where you are trying to listen to it? Have you been able to yet?
      If it is still a problem for you, please send me a link to where you are trying to access the episode.
      You can also visit our website at http://www.theplaypodcast.com to listen to any episode. Thanks for your interest. Douglas

      Reply
  2. Celerino Abad-Zapatero

    I enjoyed very much the podcast and insights on Tom Stoppard’s ‘Leopoldstadt’.
    Was fortunate to see it in New York , Nov. 30th.
    I needed to read the script, taking my time, to absorb the condensed text ‘a la Tom Stoppard’ and
    this podcast shed further light on bits that I had missed.

    I think that a podcast should be devoted to another of the most recent Stoppard’s play
    The Hard Problem…. and clarify, explain, the issues addressed in the play about ‘ultra-Darwinism’ in the social sciences.
    The importance of the issues addressed in the play in a ‘Tom Stoppard’s way’ are very important.

    Reply
    • Douglas Schatz

      Thank you Celerino. I would very much like to cover more Stoppard plays – there are many great ones to choose from!

      You may also be interested in the Footnotes that I compiled about Leopoldstadt after the podcast. You can find them at http://www.theplaypodcast.com/jerusalem-footnotes/

      Thanks for listening.
      Douglas

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also be interested in …
079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

079 – The Hills of California, by Jez Butterworth

A new Jez Butterworth play is a theatrical event. The Hills of California is currently running at the Harold Pinter theare in London’s West End, directed by Sam Mendes. Do not be misled by the title, however, we are not in sunny California, but in the back streets of Blackpool, where four daughters come together to say goodbye to their dying mother. The play is a portrait of lost dreams, of deeply ingrained patterns of love and hurt within a family, and of suppressed and mutable memories.

I’m joined to explore this major new work by Sean McEvoy, author of Class, Culture and Tragedy in the Plays of Jez Butterworth.

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

078 – The Lover and The Collection, by Harold Pinter

We have a double-bill in this episode of two short plays written by Harold Pinter in the early 1960s: The Lover and The Collection, both of which explore sexual compulsion and the manipulation of truth within marriage or partnerships. As we record this episode a new production of both plays is playing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, directed by Lindsay Posner.

I’m delighted to welcome Lindsay back to the podcast to talk about these two Pinter gems.

Claudie Blakley and David Morrissey in The Lover
Photo by Nobby Clark

077 – An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen

077 – An Enemy of the People, by Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People is a fable of truth and lies, politics and power, and the challenge and costs of pursuing an unpopular crusade to speak truth to power. It’s a story of ‘fake news’, manipulation of the media, the dangers of populism, and the environmental cost of capitalism. No wonder it strikes a chord in our time, for as we record this episode there are two major new productions of An Enemy of the People on the world stage.

I’m delighted to welcome back to the podcast, Ibsen expert, Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, who I was privileged to talk with in episode 74 on Ibsen’s play Ghosts

Matt Smith as Thomas Stockmann
Duke of York’s Theatre, London
Photo by Manuel Harlan