Travesties does both - sort of.
Twenty years after winning Evening Standard and Tony Awards, Tom Stoppard's surreal comedy returns to the West End after a sellout revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory.
It's a vigorously intelligent pastiche of a play, bringing James Joyce, Lenin and Dadaism to one book-strewn stage set in 1917 Zurich, within the mould of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, told from the unreliable perspective of elderly diplomat Henry Carr. It hinges on a real life account of Carr suing Joyce over the cost of costumes in an amateur dramatic production staged in Switzerland during the war. Sound confusing?
That's because it is. But this joyride through literary, political and artistic history is gloriously playful, too. The narrative flits from razor precision to mind-boggling confusion, via whole scenes composed in limerick and all-dancing musical numbers.
Patrick Marber, who is best known for penning plays including Closer and Red Lion, directs a pacy production, which never drops to doldrums debate despite the density of academic references and the profound questions over the nature of art. TV star Tom Hollander (The Night Manager) is especially animated as Henry, playing the part of an intellectual dandy with a taste for impeccable tailoring. And he is well supported by a spirited Freddie Fox as Tristan Tzara, who leaps and howls 'da da da da' in proclamation of his art.
If you're au fait enough with Modernist literature to chortle at jokes based on details from specific chapters of Ulysses then you will adore Travesties. The inter-textuality and word play are meant for you, oh well-read member of the audience.
But the central exploration of art and its value and relationship with revolution cuts deep enough through the intellectualism. So you don't need to have an English Literature degree be entertained (if slightly baffled) by this high-brow farce.
(But it's better if you do).
|What||Travesties, Apollo Theatre review|
31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES | MAP
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
03 Feb 17 – 29 Apr 17, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|