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ARTS - Theatre Of Rock

Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
The latest play from legendary playwright Tom Stoppard tackles communism and conservatism over three generations – all to a soundtrack of the likes of Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, The Cure and The Stones. The Sydney Theatre Company presents the Melbourne Theatre Company mind and amp-blowing production of Rock’n’Roll. Darryn King spoke to star Genevieve Picot.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the play is about-
It’s a look at, in brief, two different types of society – a kind of capitalist and increasingly conservative society in Cambridge, England, and a Communist society in Czechoslovakia looking for more freedom. The stories are woven together, not only by the people who visit both countries, but the music. Rock n roll kind of represents the spirit of freedom in both countries, the people in society who start wanting something a little bit more.

Do you think that you need to have an understanding of the historical and political context of this play to appreciate it-
To be perfectly honest I don’t. Even if you don’t understand what happened in that time, or know the people, it’s the ideas and principles they’re talking about which are more important, because they actually apply to today. What comes across really clearly in both parallel stories is the issue of self-censorship – which we do even now, in the terms of the way we work, living under the new terror laws and all that kind of stuff. What is clear is how individuals relate to the societies they are in, and create a space for themselves as individuals, not just as creatures of a society.

Do you have any unique challenges in this play- You play two characters, don’t you-
Yeah, look, for me in the play, I don’t get much political stuff, I deal more with the humanist ideas he’s exploring. The difficulty for me is that it’s a big emotional range – in the first half I play a woman who’s dying of cancer. That first half is pretty dark and pretty emotional… It’s very tiring I have to say. I get a bit knocked out by the next day, but that’s life in the theatre. In the second half, I play that woman’s daughter. And indeed, there’s another actor who plays my daughter in the first half, and then I take over playing the daughter and she plays mine in the second half… That’s quite nice to do, because they’re two fantastic roles for an actor and quite different. It’s really nice to go from one to the other.

You’ve performed in Arcadia, another Tom Stoppard play. Does Rock’n’Roll have any of Stoppard’s trademarks-
There are trademarks in the sense that Tom Stoppard never writes down to his audience – he weaves quite complex threads and ideas through all his plays. I have to say when I first saw Arcadia – saw, as opposed to performing in it – I just got so excited by that, because it doesn’t often happy anymore in the theatre. Everything is made so simple and obvious in the theatre now, and it’s really nice to have writing that’s so rich and dense and economic. I know some people who have come back to the production of Rock’n’Roll a couple of times in Melbourne and they’ve gotten so much out of it. It’s such a rich play.

Do you think Stoppard’s message in this play is ultimately optimistic-

Yes I do, actually. I think he’s really encouraging people to not be apathetic, basically. And take that spirit, that amazing emotional aggressive spirit of rock n roll, into the real world. Don’t take it lying down. Do something about it.

WHAT: Rock’n’Roll
WHERE: Sydney Theatre
WHEN:  Monday 14 April – Sunday 17 May