What will endure from the plays of the late 20th century? Already, the theatre that caused the greatest fuss at the time – the in-yer-face shockers by Mark Ravenhill, Martin McDonagh and friends – look flashy and shallow and strangely dated; only Sarah Kane's psychological slashing seems to have survived from this flashing pack of playwrights. Yet one genre seems to have solidified as the decades pass into bona fide masterpieces, and will perhaps define that period: the play of ideas.
It looks now like the theatre from the 1980s and 1990s that tried to dramatise the great intellectual mudslides and forest fires of its time has thrived better than any other – from Michael Frayn's Copenhagen to Caryl Churchill's Top Girls to Terry Johnson's Insignificance. Using the old theatrical forms of the comedy or the thriller, they ask the most profound questions – what is human life for, and how it should it be lived? Standing above them all, making the case for the entire genre, is perhaps the greatest play of its time: Arcadia by Tom Stoppard.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Case For Stoppard
From the Independent in London: