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Tom Stoppard’s Travesties is funny and charming – Review

Travesties After a successful run last year, Patrick Marber’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties is back, this time at the Apollo Theatre London. Tom Hollander stars as English diplomat Henry Carr, an elderly man recalling his youth in Zurich during the war. There, he was involved with Dadaist Tristan Tzara (Freddie Fox), writer James Joyce (Peter McDonald), and revolutionary Lenin (Forbes Mason). He recalls how he starred as Algernon in the Importance of Being Earnest during 1917; his memory is immediately questionable, though this charming nobody fancies himself as having been another vital player in Zurich, a hotbed of artistic and revolutionary activity at the time. The references to Wilde’s play imbue another layer of comedy to the whole, as Cecily (Clare Foster) and Gwendolen (Amy Morgen) round out the cast.

My expectations ran high at the prospect of Travesties, and it does not disappoint. Stoppard’s witty and moving play is realised with energy, against Tim Hatley’s layered set design and clever lighting from Neil Austin. The loud ding of a library desk-bell draws us into the past; the mischievous quality this conjures helps direct the erudite script at hand. Hollander is faultless, his openness and charm bringing what could be a barrage of pretentious literary and artistic references into a relatable realm.

Marber’s direction comes through most interestingly in the second half, which features several of the more moving moments of the script; Joyce’s declaration of the artist as a magician is a particular highlight. McDonald delivers a light-touch with Joyce, something that aids in the profundity of his this most excellent speech. Despite what looks like rational debate around art’s value and purpose, these emotional moments remind of the intimate and subjective nature of these questions.

Though Hollander is not to be faulted, I was incredibly impressed by Freddie Fox. His physicality and movement on stage add a dynamism to the production that is otherwise a rather more cerebral experience; he imbues the entire space with Dadaist energy. Tim Wallers is also charming as Carr’s knowing butler, and Forbes Masson is to be commended for making Lenin so thoroughly entertaining and funny, despite being mostly a straightforward walk-on joke.

In all it is patently exuberant; a dash of contemplation mixed with taut action, a healthy dose of self-deprecation and irony, finished with a good pinch of silliness. Travesties is an opportunity to engage with clever concepts, without gauche self-indulgence – it is funny, charming and cuts through the state of the world like a knife, as resonant to the enduring themes of human creativity and emotion as it was in its first performances in 1974.

5 Star Rating

Review by Christina Carè Calgaro

The Menier Chocolate Factory’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties has transferred to the West End’s Apollo Theatre, with performances from 3rd February 2017. The revival stars Tom Hollander as Henry Carr alongside Amy Morgan as Gwendolen, Freddie Fox as Tristan Tzara. Cast includes Clare Foster and Forbes Masson.

Tom Stoppard’s dazzling comedy of art, love and revolution features James Joyce, Tristan Tzara and Lenin as remembered – and misremembered – by Henry Carr, a minor British diplomat in Zurich 1917. When Gwendolen and Cecily wander in from The Importance of Being Earnest Henry’s mind wanders too. He knows he was Algernon in a production in Zurich. But who was the other one? The original production of Travesties won the Evening Standard award for Best Comedy and the Tony award for Best Play. This first London revival in over 20 years will be directed by Patrick Marber and will star Tom Hollander.
Freddie Fox – (Tristan Tzara)
Tom Hollander – (Henry Carr)
Peter McDonald – (James Joyce)
Clare Foster – (Cecily)
Forbes Masson – (Lenin)
Amy Morgan – (Gwendolen)
Sarah Quist – (Nadya)
Tim Wallers – (Bennett)

Directed by: Patrick Marber; Designer: Tim Hatley; Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Sound Designer and Original Music: Adam Cork

Apollo Theatre

31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Booking Until: 29th Apr 2017

Book Tickets for Travesties


  • Christina Carè

    'Christina is just another Aussie in London, writing about the arts and signing up for all the weird performance productions the city has to offer. She is Content Editor at Spotlight and tweets from @christinacare.'

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