Tom Stoppard’s heartfelt high jinks

GettyImages-142766655_webAndrew Dickson at Prospect Magazine:

It is sometimes said of Stoppard’s work that it is all head and no heart; that his fascination with verbal high jinks and conceptual fireworks doesn’t mine the deepest truths about human existence. Yet few writers have engaged so passionately with the big issues of our time—faith, politics, revolution—or pushed the boundaries of theatre so far. And in a period of nervy global uncertainty, perhaps a few high jinks are what we need.

Later in that BBC interview, Stoppard recovered his old wit. Maybe his response to the surreal absurdities of the current moment might be a farce, he added—“several vicars dropping their trousers in walk-in wardrobes.” Somehow, you wouldn’t put it past him.

Stoppard’s life story is as unlikely as anything he has put on stage. Born Tomás Straüssler in July 1937 in Zlín in what was then Czechoslovakia, his father was a company doctor for a firm that made shoes. Forced to flee two years later by the Nazi invasion, the family ended up in Singapore, before fleeing again, this time from the Japanese. Tomás’s father remained behind, and was killed; on reaching India, his mother remarried a major in the British Army, Kenneth Stoppard, who gave her two boys his surname and brought the family to England in 1946. Thomas—as he now was—had only learned to speak English a short while before.

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