Vienna in 1900 was the most vibrant city in Europe, humming with artistic and intellectual excitement and a genius for enjoying life. A tenth of the population were Jews. A generation earlier they had been granted full civil rights by the Emperor, Franz Josef. Consequently, hundreds of thousands had fled from the Pale and the pogroms in the East and many found sanctuary in the crowded tenements of the old Jewish quarter, Leopoldstadt.
Tom Stoppard’s new play, directed by Patrick Marber, is an intimate drama with an epic sweep; the story of a family who made good. “My grandfather wore a caftan,” says Hermann, a factory owner, “My father went to the opera in a top hat, and I have the singers to dinner.”
It was not to last. Half a century later, this family, like millions of others, has re-discovered what it means to be Jewish in the first half of the 20th century.
Tell Me More
Tom Stoppard’s highly anticipated play “Leopoldstadt” makes its worldwide premiere on the West End in January 2020. The play was inspired by Stoppard’s own life and discovering his heritage and family’s Czech roots. The playwright was born Tomáš Straussler in former Czechoslovakia, but his family fled to Singapore when the Nazi’s invaded. After living in India for a brief period of his childhood, Stoppard moved to England in 1946 with his mother and brother. After his mother’s death, he returned to Zlín in the Czech Republic in the hope of learning more about his family’s history, and he discovered that his grandparents and the majority of their generation died in concentration camps. The playwright has stated that “that visit accounted for this play,” which takes place in the Jewish Quarter, Leopoldstadt, Vienna in 1900 and over 50 years it follows a Jewish family through the early 20th century.
What To Watch For
- Tom Stoppard’s career as a playwright has spanned over 50 years. The writer’s highly acclaimed “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead” made its debut in the Old Vic in 1967.
- Stoppard has since had a string of successful plays which include “Arcadia” and “Travesties,” all of which are written with ambition, ideas, and wit.
- “Leopoldstadt” features a large cast of over 35 actors and a creative team including director Patrick Marber.