Leopoldstadt (play)

Leopoldstadt is a play by Sir Tom Stoppard, directed by Patrick Marber, which premiered on 25 January 2020 at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End. The play is set among the Jewish community of Vienna in the first half of the 20th century and follows the lives of "a prosperous Jewish family who had fled the pogroms in the East".[1] According to Stoppard the play "took a year to write, but the gestation was much longer. Quite a lot of it is personal to me, but I made it about a Viennese family so that it wouldn't seem to be about me." (Stoppard's four Jewish grandparents died in Nazi concentration camps.)[2] The production is set to make its transfer to the Broadway stage in 2022.

Leopoldstadt
Poster for Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard.png
Written byTom Stoppard
Date premiered25 January 2020
Place premieredWyndham's Theatre
London
Original languageEnglish
SubjectHistory, Jewish life, The Holocaust, antisemitism
GenreDrama
SettingVienna during first half of the 20th century from 1899 to 1955

A National Theatre Live recording was screened in over 380[3] cinemas on 27 January 2022 (Holocaust Memorial Day) and topped that night's UK and Ireland Box Office.[4] The play's second preview performance was also on Holocaust Memorial Day (in 2020) and the audience were each given a memorial candle as they left the theatre.[5]

BackgroundEdit

Patrick Marber, who worked with Stoppard on the revival of Travesties in London and New York, commented that "It's a big company play which as a director is incredibly exciting to do. It's got the lot."[6] During rehearsals he "instituted a fabulous regime of lectures" given by cast members, allotting each a subject relevant to the play's themes to investigate.[7]

Leopoldstadt's original run at Wyndham's — which had no seat unsold at any performance — was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the production being temporarily shut down on 16 March 2020. On 25 October 2020 Leopoldstadt won the Olivier Award for American Airlines' Best New Play,[8] and Adrian Scarborough won the Best Actor in a Supporting Role.[9] After Covid restrictions were lifted in England the play re-opened, running from 7 August to 30 October 2021.[10]

Stoppard told BBC Radio 4 that Leopoldstadt may be his last play[11] though in October 2021 he acknowledged, in a CNN interview with Christiane Amanpour, that he was reconsidering this – “I'm a playwright, by more than, as it were, labeling. I feel like somebody who writes plays while they're still alive.”.[12]

The Wyndham's production's set design was by Richard Hudson, costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel, lighting by Neil Austin, sound and original music by Adam Cork and movement by EJ Boyle. The 41 actors performing in the 2020 production were cast by Amy Ball (adults) and Verity Naughton (children); Leopoldstadt is also the sixth collaboration between Sonia Friedman Productions and Tom Stoppard.[13] The initial cast list (of over 40 players[14]) was announced on 25 October 2019[15] and included Adrian Scarborough, Alexis Zegerman, Luke Thallon and Stoppard's son, Ed.[7]

The play will now have its North American premiere on Broadway in 2022.[16] Its originally intended North American premiere was to have taken place at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto,[17] for a seven-week engagement with the London cast, however it was announced that the run would no longer go ahead because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The theatre's owner, David Mirvish said "... I'm not giving up on Leopoldstadt. I'm determined to present this magnificent play in Toronto sometime in the future when it is safe to do so."[18]

Plot summaryEdit

Leopoldstadt frames the narrative of a Jewish family in Vienna over a period of some 50 years. The main set is the drawing room of a wealthy family. There are five acts occurring in the years 1899, 1900, 1924, and 1955.

  • 1899: the family gathers for Christmas, discussing ideas ranging from Zionism to Jewish and Viennese arts and culture. They have integrated well with Viennese society, and enjoy their rights and civil liberties. Hanna asks Gretl to chaperone her on a date with a non-Jewish cavalry officer, Fritz. Hermann’s nephew, Pauli, expresses an interest in becoming a soldier.
  • 1900: Gretl and Fritz strike up an affair, which Gretl eventually ends. Hermann gains knowledge of this, but ultimately dismisses her infidelity. The family gather for Passover Seder, celebrating the birth of Hermann’s niece, Nellie.
  • 1924: Hermann and Gretl have a son, Jacob, who alongside Pauli, fought in WWI. Pauli was killed in battle, whereas Jacob survived but had his arm amputated. The family gather for a circumcision. This act explores the impacts of WWI and the rise of Bolshevism. Fearing for the worst, Hermann meets with a banker to discuss transferring the family business to Jacob.
  • 1938: the year of Anschluss. The family are gathered, with the company of a British journalist who is engaged to one of the girls in the family. The family discuss escape plans, including visas to England. The Nazis enter the property, harassing the family and seizing their belongings. The family's home is requisitioned by the Nazis and the family must leave to be transported the following day. Hermann is forced to sign the family business away to the Nazis, but Jacob retains legal ownership. It is revealed that Jacob is the legal son of Gretl and Fritz; Hermann planned and acknowledged the affair so that Jacob would not face antisemitism since he was legally recorded as a gentile.
  • 1955: the survivors of the Holocaust gather in the family home. Only 3 family members survived: Leo, who successfully gained a British visa and assimilated into British culture; Rosa, who moved to New York prior to the Holocaust; and Nathan, who survived Auschwitz. Leo has no memory of his life in Vienna as a Jew; the family painfully recollect their memories, and acknowledge their murdered family members.

NT Live screeningsEdit

A performance of the play, recorded towards the end of its second run, was screened in UK cinemas (and some international locations) on 27 January 2022 (Holocaust Memorial Day) through NTLive.[19]

Critical receptionEdit

The play has been received in a positive tone, probably, due to the feeling that this was going to be his last play. Here are some examples:

"So here it is. Tom Stoppard's last play. Very possibly. Britain's greatest living dramatist has said that Leopoldstadt is likely to be the end of the road – given his age (82) and how long it takes him to write. Almost every major work he has produced since he burst onto the scene with his Hamlet spin-off Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1966 has been met with high anticipation."[20] "History will record Leopoldstadt as Tom Stoppard's Schindler's List. His brilliant tragic-comic play opens in the Jewish quarter of Vienna in 1899. We meet a family of intellectuals and businessmen who are celebrating their very first Christmas. (...) At press night, the critics were busy scribbling one-liners which are destined to reach the dictionary of quotations. ‘Why do Jews have to choose between pushy and humble?’ ‘Today's modern is tomorrow's nostalgia: we missed Mahler when we heard Schoenberg.’"[21]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Original West End productionEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Laurence Olivier Award[22] Best New Play Won
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Adrian Scarborough Won

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (29 June 2019). "Leopoldstadt, Tom Stoppard's new play". The Times. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  2. ^ Brown, Mark (26 June 2019). "Jewish district inspires Tom Stoppard in 'personal' new play". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  3. ^ "NT Live: Leopoldstadt". LondonNet. Archived from the original on 27 January 2022. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  4. ^ ""We're over the moon to have topped the UK & Ireland box office last night with Leopoldstadt! @SFP_London 😱"". NTLive. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  5. ^ "We were given these memorial candles as we left the performance of Tom Stoppard's #Leopoldstadt. A particularly poignant date to see this powerful and personal play". Twitter. 27 January 2020. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  6. ^ Nathan, John (26 June 2019). "Tom Stoppard's first Jewish play announced". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  7. ^ a b Jays, David (28 January 2020). "'My surname was an albatross': Ed Stoppard on starring in his dad's new play". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 January 2020.
  8. ^ Olivier Awards (25 October 2020). "Tweet from Olivier Awards announcing the winner of Best New Play". Twitter. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  9. ^ Olivier Awards (25 October 2020). "Tweet from Olivier Awards announcing the winner of Best Actor in a Supporting Role". Twitter. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  10. ^ "Leopoldstadt – 2021 West End Dates". Londonboxoffice.co.uk. 6 April 2021. Retrieved 28 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (8 February 2020). "Tom Stoppard reveals that Leopoldstadt may be his last play". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Amanpour, Christiane; Lyons, Emmet; Olshansky, Ken (27 October 2021). "'Shakespeare in Love' screenplay writer Tom Stoppard said 'Leopoldstadt' would be his last play – now he's not so sure". CNN Style. Retrieved 28 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Leopoldstadt in the West End: first look at Tom Stoppard's new play in rehearsals". WhatsOnStage.com. 14 January 2020. Retrieved 14 January 2020.
  14. ^ Brantley, Ben (12 February 2020). "Review: In 'Leopoldstadt,' Tom Stoppard Reckons With His Jewish Roots". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 5 April 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Perks, Daniel (25 October 2019). "Leopoldstadt initial cast to include Adrian Scarborough and Luke Thallon". WhatsOnStage.com. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  16. ^ Putnam, Leah (8 April 2022). "Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt Coming to Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 8 April 2022.
  17. ^ "News: Last chance to see Leopoldstadt in the West End". The Theatre Cafe. 4 October 2021. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  18. ^ "Press Release: Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadt Will No Longer Play Toronto in 2022". Mirvish Theatres. 10 December 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  19. ^ "National Theatre Live to broadcast Kit Harington's Henry V, Hex, Leopoldstadt and The Book of Dust". WhatsOnStage.com. 28 October 2021. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  20. ^ Cavendish, Dominic (12 February 2020). "Leopoldstadt review, Wyndham's Theatre: Tom Stoppard delivers an unforgettable (perhaps final) play from the heart". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 4 October 2021.
  21. ^ Evans, Lloyd (15 February 2020). "A brilliant, unrevivable undertaking: Tom Stoppard's Leopoldstadr Reviewed". The Spectator. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard – Theatre's Biggest Night". Olivier Awards. 25 October 2020. Retrieved 28 January 2022.

External linksEdit