The Canadian Stage Company are known for their eclectic programming with their productions, combining both contemporary and thought provoking performances throughout the season. I recently caught Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll, a three hour performance of political-isms and musical memories. Based on the internal struggles and beliefs of individuals living two different lives - location, generations, beliefs, views and understandings.
Beginning in Czechoslovakia and Cambridge (England) in 1968, the story develops as a professor/student relationship fosters into a friendship of respect and differences. Max has his set views on Communism, Marxism and Fascism, from a scholar point of view, but Jan provides a first hand perspective as a youth who lived within these walls of isms. The Plastic People of the Universe are the middle ground between the two, and the background to this developing dissection of cultures - a Czech band with political stances that were not highly regarded within the former Soviet regime.
What I found compelling was the extent to which both music and politics played vital roles in this production, both receiving equal share of the content, yet overlapping in perfect harmony. Rock and Roll has always been perceived as counter-culture, and one line in the play states, "In alternative culture, success is always failure". True enough.
This play has a personal aspect to Stoppard, as like Jan, he was born in Czechoslovakia to Jewish parents in the 1930's, yet he chose not to return home, unlike Jan. Perhaps this is a chance to view life from a different perspective, as is "what if". Stoppard has won five previous Genie Awards, and Rock and Roll debuts here in Toronto after successful runs in London and New York.
The play is three hours long with one intermission. Tickets are available from $20, and the play runs until October 24th. www.canstage.com