Open main menu

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (play)

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is a stage play by Tom Stoppard with music by André Previn. It was first performed in 1977. The play criticises the Soviet practice of treating political dissidence as a form of mental illness.[1] Its title derives from the popular mnemonic used by music students to remember the notes on the lines of the treble clef. The cast comprises six actors, but also a full orchestra, which not only provides music throughout the play but also forms an essential part of the action. A chamber-orchestra version also exists.

The play is dedicated to Viktor Fainberg and Vladimir Bukovsky, two Soviet dissidents expelled to the West.[2]:359



The play concerns a dissident, Alexander Ivanov, who is imprisoned in a Soviet mental hospital, from which he will not be released until he admits that his statements against the government were caused by a (non-existent) mental disorder.

In the hospital he shares a cell with a genuinely disturbed schizophrenic, also called Ivanov, who believes himself to have a symphony orchestra under his command. Alexander receives visits from the Doctor and from a Colonel in the KGB.

Meanwhile, his son, Sacha, is seen in a school classroom with a teacher who attempts to convince him of the genuineness of his father's illness.

Production historyEdit

Because of the difficulties in staging a play that requires a full orchestra in addition to the cast of actors, the play is rarely performed.

Its 1977 premiere was staged at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. That performance featured Ian McKellen (Alexander), John Wood (Ivanov) and Patrick Stewart (Doctor), as well as the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Previn. The play was then commercially recorded for RCA Red Seal (RCA ABL1-2855), with Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, and McKellen, Stewart, Ian Richardson, Elizabeth Spriggs, Andrew Sheldon, and Philip Locke as the featured actors.

In 1978, the play was produced for television by the BBC. The producer was Mark Shivas and direction was shared by Trevor Nunn and Roger Bamford. The filming was undertaken at a live performance at Wembley Conference Centre in April 1978, conducted by Previn. The cast for this production was Ian McKellen (Alexander Ivanov), Ben Kingsley (Ivanov), Frank Windsor (Doctor), John Woodvine (Colonel), Barbara Leigh Hunt (Teacher), and James Harris (aka Jim Harris) and James Pickering as Sacha.

Following its BBC production, the play ran at the Mermaid Theatre in London during the summer and autumn of 1978. Cast changes included John Carlisle taking on the role of the Colonel from John Woodvine, who played Alexander Ivanov, Ian McDiarmid (Ivanov), Rowena Cooper (Teacher) and [Rhys McConochie (Doctor). The role of Sacha was played by a number of young actors including Harris again, and Anthony Robb. Every Good Boy Deserves Favour was the last production at the old Mermaid before it was demolished and redeveloped.

In July and August 1979, the play was given a New York City run of eight performances at the Metropolitan Opera House, with a cast featuring René Auberjonois (Ivanov), Eli Wallach (Alexander), Carol Teitel (Teacher), Remak Ramsay (Doctor), Bobby Scott (Sacha), and Carl Low (Colonel Rozinsky).[3]

Patrick Stewart also appeared in a 1992 production (produced by Charles Johanson for the Orange County Symphony) which toured to four US cities. The cast included his Star Trek: The Next Generation colleagues Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Colm Meaney.[4]

The play was performed in 2002 in Philadelphia as a collaboration between the Wilma Theater and the Philadelphia Orchestra, taking advantage of the fact that Previn had reorchestrated the score for chamber orchestra, making smaller productions possible.[5]

In 2008, it was performed at The Town Hall in New York City by the Boston University College of Fine Arts, directed by Jim Petosa and conducted by Neal Hampton, as part of their Incite Festival.[6] This production was revived (director, Jim Petosa, conducted by William Lumpkin) and played the Boston University Theatre in October 2009 and then again for two performances at Maryland's Olney Theatre Center in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

In July 2008, the Chautauqua Theater Company at the Chautauqua Institute, in western New York state, performed the play in conjunction with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for the 25th Anniversary Gala of the theatre company. Ethan McSweeny was the director, with conductor Stefan Sanderling, Michael Emerson as Alexander and Brian Murray as Ivanov.[7]

in January 2009, London's National Theatre mounted a revival starring Toby Jones, Joseph Millson and Dan Stevens, with the Southbank Sinfonia as the featured orchestra.[8]

Every Good Boy Deserves Favour received its first Carnegie Hall performance by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra on 7 May 2011 as part of the "Spring for Music" Festival.[9] Cornel Gabara was stage-director for this performance, whose cast consisted of Pete Cross (Alexander), David DeChristopher (Ivanov), Yazan "Zack" Safadi (Sasha), Kevin Hayes (Colonel), Benjamin Pryor (Doctor), and Pamela Tomassetti (Teacher).


  1. ^ Billington, Michael (19 January 2009). "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  2. ^ Caute, David (2005). The dancer defects: the struggle for cultural supremacy during the Cold War. Oxford University Press. p. 359. ISBN 0-19-927883-0.
  3. ^ Mel Gussow (1979-07-31). "Theater: Stoppard's Every Good Boy". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  4. ^ Timothy Mangan (1992-02-17). "Music/Stage Review: A Starry Staging of 'Every Good Boy'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  5. ^ David Anthony Fox (2002-11-27). "Good Boy Network". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  6. ^ Edward A Brown (2008-03-07). "BU Actors Take the Stage in New York". BU Today. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  7. ^ Jane Vranish (2008-08-02). "Stage review: Chautauqua takes some chill out of Stoppard Cold War piece". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  8. ^ Michael Billington (2009-01-19). "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-29.
  9. ^ James R Oestreich (2011-05-08). "Something Borrowed and Something New". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-05-29.

External linksEdit