Read Travesties by Tom Stoppard Online


"Travesties" ws born out of Stoppard's noting that in 1917 three of the twentieth century's most crucial revolutionaries -- James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and Lenin -- were all living in Zurich. Also living in Zurich at this time was a British consula official called Henry Carr, a man acquainted with Joyce through the theater and later through a lawsuit co"Travesties" ws born out of Stoppard's noting that in 1917 three of the twentieth century's most crucial revolutionaries -- James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and Lenin -- were all living in Zurich. Also living in Zurich at this time was a British consula official called Henry Carr, a man acquainted with Joyce through the theater and later through a lawsuit concerning a pair of trousers. Taking Carr as his core, Stoppard spins this historical coincidence into a masterful and riotously funny play, a speculative portrait of what could have been the meeting of these profoundly influential men in a germinal Europe as seen through the lucid, lurid, faulty, and wholy riveting memory of an aging Henry Carr....

Title : Travesties
Author :
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ISBN : 9780802150899
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 96 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Travesties Reviews

  • Warwick
    2019-05-15 08:25

    A masterful fizz of mature 70s Stoppard, this extravagantly brilliant play is, like many of his best works, sketched in the margins of existing literary history. Stoppard noticed, apparently for the first time, that Tristan Tzara, James Joyce and Lenin were all in neutral Zurich at about the same time during the First World War. Travesties imagines how they might have interacted, and it does so with real brio – including one scene written entirely in limericks, another imitating a chapter of Ulysses, and several pastiches of The Importance of Being Earnest (a play that James Joyce was paid to stage for the British Council in 1917).It had been many years since I last read this or saw it performed, and despite my happy memories of it, I had forgotten quite how wonderful it is. The central argument concerns the nature and purpose of art, a subject on which the various characters hold very different views. The fact that these discussions are taking place while thousands are being slaughtered on Europe's battlefields is very much of the essence.My dear Tristan, to be an artist at all is like living in Switzerland during a world war. To be an artist in Zurich, in 1917, implies a degree of self-absorption that would have glazed over the eyes of Narcissus.The speaker here is Henry Carr, British consular representative in Zurich, who anchors the play and brings the rest of the cast together. He is suspicious of Tzara's newfangled modern-art sensibilities, despite the Dadaist's attempts to explain himself:TZARA: Doing the things by which is meant Art is no longer considered the proper concern of the artist. In fact it is frowned upon. Nowadays, an artist is someone who makes art mean the things he does. A man may be an artist by exhibiting his hindquarters. He may be a poet by drawing words out of a hat.CARR: But that is simply to change the meaning of the word Art.TZARA: I see I have made myself clear.I could quote the whole of this scene and not run out of lines I want to share with people. As always with Stoppard, he is unique in the even-handedness of these debates: there is no sense that one character's viewpoint is ‘privileged’ as speaking for the author. Stoppard famously said he became a playwright because it was the only respectable way of disagreeing with himself, and the arguments in Travesties are a good example of this.Joyce disagrees with Tzara over what art should be, but he makes a passionate case for its importance.What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist's touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots.But Henry Carr, nursing a wound he got in the trenches, is suspicious of this position too. His mistrust of Joyce – which culminates in a lawsuit – is the backdrop for probably the play's most famous line, which closes the first act:I dreamed about him, dreamed I had him in the witness box, a masterly cross-examination, case practically won, admitted it all, the whole thing, the trousers, everything, and I flung at him – ‘And what did you do in the Great War?’ ‘I wrote Ulysses,’ he said. ‘What did you do?’Bloody nerve.All Stoppard's trademarks are here in spades – the verbal pyrotechnics, the deep grounding in literature and history, the love of debate, the willingness to include crowd-pleasing gimmicks and daft jokes (‘Have you ever come across Dada, darling?’ ‘Never, da-da-darling!’), and above all, perhaps, the general questioning of certainty that characterises his oeuvre as a whole. Maybe it's not his very best play – that, I think, is Arcadia – but it might be his most Stoppardian, and it's a masterpiece of condensed thought and wit.(Feb 2014)

  • Kim
    2019-05-03 07:49

    Tom Stoppard is my favourite contemporary playwright. This is not my favourite of his plays* and the first act is much stronger than the second, but it's still a gem. In it, Stoppard takes a coincidence of history and spins it into an intelligent comedy with a serious point. The narrative and themes come from the fact that for a period in 1917, three revolutionaries - James Joyce, Tristan Tzara and Lenin - were all residing in Zurich. They apparently didn’t meet, but Stoppard imagines a world in which they did. Or at least a world in which they might have met, for the play’s narrator, an aging minor British consular official named Henry Carr, is not exactly reliable.In real life, Carr and Joyce were acquainted. In his spare time - when he wasn't writing episodes of Ulysses - Joyce was the business manager of a group called the English Players. With the support of the British consulate, the group put on a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest. Carr played Algernon and he and Joyce ended up in litigation over the cost of trousers and tickets. This quirky footnote in Joyce’s life gave Henry Carr a place in history and role of a different kind in Stoppard’s play. The serious point of this work is its discussion of the meaning and purpose of art. Is art meant to be revolutionary? Should art only exist for art’s sake? Is something art because the artist says it is? This theme is explored in a pastiche of The Importance of Being Earnest, a scene written in limericks, another scene written in the style of a chapter of Ulysses . It contains an abundance of Stoppard’s extraordinary cleverness with words and plenty of inspired silliness. Although I'm passionate about theatre, I haven't really read plays since studying English and French literature at university. I would much rather see a play performed than read it. Just as songwriters write songs to be sung and composers write musical scores to be played, playwrights write plays to be performed. And although the best actors and the most receptive audience in the world can't turn dross into gold, they can give wings to words that would otherwise be flat on the page. In spite of my reluctance to read plays, I was inspired to do so on this occasion by the fact that I’m currently reading Gordon Bowker’s biography of Joyce. Last week I reached the chapter dealing with Joyce’s experiences in Zurich in 1917. I then remembered that I’d heard this story before when I saw an excellent production of Travesties about six years ago. That was all the inspiration I needed to read the play. I’m really glad I did. It’s a lot of fun.*That would be either Arcadia or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

  • Greg
    2019-04-25 06:44

    Great fun. The direction notes in brackets within the players dialogue helps to visualise the play, and also to understand its unusual time shifts while reading the play.The verbal abuse between characters maybe a nod to, or have been inspired by the similar language in Ulysses. I was reminded of the flow of language, like on p.425 of Ulysses, "Christicle, who's this excrement yellow gospeller on the Merrion hall? ……Come on you winefizzing ginsizzing boozeguzzling existences!". Brave of Stoppard, as this makes the attempts in Travesties pale in comparison, which is not to take anything away from this great play.Travesties touches on the unresolvable dilemma of Communist orthodoxy towards art. While rejecting Impressionist paintings subject matter as Bourgeois, they couldn't in all credibility reject the quality of the work.I recently re-read The History of Surrealism by Maurice Nadeau which explains the dichotomy the Surrealists battled with deciding which path Surrealism should take, freedom of consciousness/unconscious mind or with a new social revolution aligning themselves with the Communist Revolution. The group split and the Surrealists distanced themselves from politics.A lot of ideas are covered in Travesties, there's much to think about.Hopefully one day I'll get to experience this play at the theatre.

  • Leslie
    2019-05-16 06:37

    OMG, I had forgotten (or not fully realized) how absolutely hilarious this play is! When I saw it in the theater, I must have focused on the homage to/parody of The Importance of Being Earnest because the James Joyce bits certainly were over my head then. Brief description: Henry Carr is recalling his days in the British Consulate in Zurich Switzerland during WW1, when James Joyce, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), and Tzara (one of the founders of Dadaism) are all there. These 4 are historical figures who actually were in Zurich in 1917. In a bow to Oscar Wilde, there are also Cecily and Gwendolyn - Cecily works at the library helping Lenin write a book on imperialism while Gwendolyn (Henry's sister) is helping Joyce research Homer's Odyssey and the Dublin Street Directory of 1904!! In addition to wickedly funny parodies of Dadaism, Joyce's Ulysses, and Bolshevism, the plot parallels Wilde's with the phony brother and mistaken identities.

  • James
    2019-05-05 08:42

    Travesties is not really a play at all but an intellectual vaudeville, frothier and more stuffed with factual arcana and philosophical inquiry than even Stoppard's Jumpers, to which it bears a certain stylistic resemblance. Its strength is not in its narrative (there isn't much) or characters (they're conceits), but in Mr. Stoppard's literate gags and glittering cerebral syntax, which finds or creates correspondences in the most hilarious places.Stoppard's comedy is rooted in history here, although the roots don't go too deep. While World War I raged across Europe, a remarkable collection of uninterested or conscientiously objecting figures assembled in Zurich, in the still center of the storm: a brooding Russian named Lenin; the Romanian-born poet Tristan Tzara, who was fomenting revolution of a different kind, doodling up the texts that would define (rather vaguely) the Dada movement in art; and James Joyce, embarking on a magnum opus that would shake the literary world to its foundations, "Ulysses."Mr. Stoppard's imagination was arrested by this odd footnote in European history, and in "Travesties" he created a mad tea party with all three in attendance, presided over, in memory, by Carr, a minor consular official who lived in Zurich during the same period. Carr came to know Joyce when the Irish writer founded a theatrical troupe that staged a single performance of Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest, with Carr as Algernon Moncrieff.This last, curious occurrence provides the narrative glue that holds together - just - a freewheeling romp through an encyclopedia's worth of artistic and intellectual concepts. Stoppard exploits this historical fact in large and small ways, making his entire play a parody of the plot and style of Wilde’s Earnest, and making a running joke out of one odd moment in the Carr-Joyce relationship. Unhappy with his recompense for playing Algernon, Carr apparently sued The English Players for the cost of the trousers he had purchased as part of his costume. Joyce then countersued Carr for the price of the complimentary tickets he had been given. When the dispute went to trial, the judge rendered a split decision; when Stoppard worked the moment into Travesties, by way of a frustrating dream Carr has, Joyce win hands down: "…I dreamed about him, dreamed I had him in the witness box, a masterly cross-examination, case practically won, admitted it all, the whole thing, the trousers, everything, and I flung at him — “And what did you do in the Great War?” “I wrote Ulysses,” he said. “What did you do?” Bloody nerve."Turning Wilde's subversive style on these proud subversives, to often hilarious effect, Mr. Stoppard allows his characters to intersect with actual or approximated scenes from Wilde's peerless comedy of manners. In the second act, for example, Lenin gives an inspirational oration to the masses that concludes with a swipe from Lady Bracknell: "To lose one revolution is unfortunate. To lose two would look like carelessness!"

  • Azma
    2019-05-07 05:53

    Comic drama starring the Irish modernist James Joyce, the Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara, the Russian Bolshevik Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, and other characters, set in a Room and a Library in the pacific Zurich of 1917. All three of the avant-garde, revolutionary figures are involved in their life's major work, but also bring the literature of Shakespeare and Wilde, the art trends of the period, and the contemporary political theories and relevant historical figures into the play and argue the purposes of art and literature. The last lines capture the idea of the characters' comments: "Great days...Zurich during the war. Refugees, spies, exiles, painters, poets, writers, radicals of all kinds. I knew them all. Used to argue far into the the Odeon, the Terrasse...I learned three things in Zurich during the war. I wrote them down. Firstly, you're either a revolutionary or you're not, and if you're not you might as well be an artist as anything else. Secondly, if you can't be an artist, you might as well be a revolutionary...I forget the third thing."

  • Laura Leaney
    2019-05-24 01:41

    This is a play hell-bent on miracles. The writing is nothing short of brilliant. If you love words, and the linguistic gymnastics possible by those little letter-units, this is the play to read. Regardless of the intellectual pyrotechnics, I have stolen some of the simplest of Stoppard's lines for my own repertoire. One of which is below:Gwen: Mr. Tzara!--you're not leaving? (the hat)Tzara: Not before I offer you my poem. (He offers the hat. Gwen looks into it.)Gwen: Your technique is unusual.I can't tell you how many times I've used the line: "Your technique is unusual" with people that drive me to drink. This play is like a dry martini that can kiss you back.

  • Alan
    2019-05-02 07:50

    Maybe Stoppard's best, though I speak as a play-goer, not a reader; I have read Arcadia and his Seagull, but the others I've seen on stage (in London). Arcadia, despite seeing it twice, is still a puzzle to me, though I get the overall double plot and time contrast (maybe unique in drama, not a warren of discontinuous plots--Winters Tale excepted). I liked Arcadia, though I did not understand it. And I was not alone. My first time at Theatre Royal Haymarket I met a Cambridge scholar (I had his survey of lit on my shelf back in the US) who was there for his third time. Couldn't understand it.

  • Julia
    2019-05-14 03:40

    This is my favorite play. It's brilliant (in both ideas and language) and it's so much fun to read, and how many other writings about WWI, modernist literature, or absurdism can be accurately described as "fun to read"? Favorite passage:CARR: How are you, my dear Tristan? What brings you here?TZARA: Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring anyone anywhere?(TZARA, no less than CARR, is straight out of The Importance of Being Earnest.)CARR: I don't know that I approve of all these Benthamite ideas, Tristan. I realize they are all the rage in Zurich--even in the most respectable salon, to remark that one was brought there by a sense of duty leads to terrible scenes, but if society is going to ape the fashions of philosophy, the end can only be ruin and decay. TZARA: Eating and drinking, as usual, I see, Henry? I have often observed that Stoical principles are more easily borne by those of Epicurean habits. CARR (stiffly): I believe it is done to drink a glass of hock and seltzer before luncheon, and it is well done to drink it well before luncheon. I took to drinking hock and seltzer for my nerves at a time when nerves were fashionable in good society. This season it is trenchfoot, but I drink it regardless because I feel much better after it.TZARA: You might have felt much better anyway.CARR: No, no--post hock, propter hock.TZARA: But, my dear Henry, causality is no longer fashionable owing to the war.CARR: How illogical, since the war itself had causes. I forget what they were, but it was all in the papers at the time. Something about brave little Belgium, wasn't it?TZARA: Was it? I thought it was Serbia...CARR: Brave little Serbia...? No, I don't think so. The newspapers would never have risked calling the British public to arms without a proper regard for succinct alliteration.TZARA: Oh, what nonsense you talk!CARR: It may be nonsense, but at least it's clever nonsense.TZARA: I am sick of cleverness. The clever people try to impose a design on the world and when it goes calamitously wrong they call it fate. In point of fact, everything is Chance, including design. CARR: That sounds awfully clever. What does it mean? Not that it has to mean anything, of course.TZARA: It means, my dear Henry, that the causes we know everything about depend on causes we know very little about, which depend on causes we know absolutely nothing about. And it is the duty of the artist to jeer and howl and belch at the delusion that infinite generations of real effects can be inferred from the gross expression of apparent cause.CARR: It is the duty of the artist to beautify existence.TZARA (articulately): Dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada dada.CARR ( slight pause): Oh, what nonsense you talk!TZARA: It may be nonsense, but at least it's not clever nonsense.

  • Frankie
    2019-05-15 08:44

    The most intriguing of Stoppard's dramas, Travesties blends history with probability as the minds and works of James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, and Lenin clash in a madcap tale of mistaken identies. This play retells the story of a brief production of The Importance of Being Earnest Joyce produced in Zurich, and is structured after Wilde's fascinating social drama.Please note, this is one piece of dramatic literature that is bound to make yinses heads hurt. Mind you, it doesn't require a full bottle of ALeve likeRosencrantz and Gildstern Are Dead.

  • Gabrielle
    2019-05-14 02:42

    Tom is an unrivaled genius that seems to be neglected in modern literary lists. His style and examination of the heart of human existence should earn him a larger place in literary circles. I learn a lot about myself with each of his novels and Travesties is no different.

  • William
    2019-05-02 05:25

    Pretty pure Stoppard: philosophy and verbal hijinks, in this case blended for good measure with a dose of The Importance of Being Ernest. As matter of narrative, little really happens, but in between the forced interactions of The characters yields plenty of intellectual heat.

  • dead letter office
    2019-05-05 00:49

    tom stoppard might be the cleverest man alive.

  • H
    2019-04-25 02:25

    JOYCE: You are an over-excited little man, with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of your natural gifts. This is not discreditable. Neitehr does it make you an artist. An artist is the magician put among men to gratify--capriciously--their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought dorwn around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyrants, yes even in the celebration of nonentities. What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist's touch? Dust. A forgotten expedition prompted by Greek merchants looking for new markets. A minor redistribution of broken pots. But it is we who stand enriched, by a tale of heroes, of a golden apple, a wooden horse, a face that launched a thousand ships--and above all, of Ulysses, the wanderer, the mots human, the most complete of all heroes--husband, father, son, lover, farmer, soldier, pacifist, politician, inventor and adventurer . . . It is a theme so overwhelming that I am almost afraid to treat it. And yet I with my Dublin Odyssey will double that immortality, yes by God there's a corpse that will dance for some time yet and leave the world precisely as it finds it--and if you hope to shame it into the grave with your fashionable magic, I would tsrongly advise you to try and acquire some genius and if possible some subtlety before the season is quite over.-TZARA: Artists and intellectuals will be the conscience of the revolution. He is a reactionary in art, and in politics h was brought up in a hard school tha tkilled weaker spirits, but he is moved by a vision of a society of free and equal men. And he will listen.-CARR: I don't think there'll be a place for Dada in a Communist society.TZARA: That's what we haev against this one. There's a place for us in it.-LENIN: There can be no real and effective freedom in a society based on the power of money. Are you free in your relation to your bourgeois publisher, Mr. Writer? And in relation to your bourgeois public speech which demands that you provide it with pronography?

  • Tom
    2019-05-24 00:50

    Travesties is a play about breaking boundaries and trying to build bridges while they burn. It takes place during WWI, and smokes a bowl of what-if in order to cross-breed some of the great minds of the time who all happened to be in the same place. The main message I got from it seems to be that fallibility succeeds.Ideology is fallible, which is why we can argue about the way the world works, or why it doesn't, while it continues to do so, or not do so, in the meantime. Memory is fallible, which is why personal and political histories can be so hard to pin down as time goes by. Language is fallible because it is mutable—but then, that's how it's supposed to work. I'll get to the point in a moment, trust me.As for this play? This play is fallible because the words have significantly more cleverness to them than they do drama. I imagine in performance it would need intense attention to detail in terms of the rhythm of choreography and speech, otherwise it would end up a huge mess. Still, everything within is wrapped in a dream or memory, so blurred edges are probably expected. It's complicated, is what I'm saying.The thing about Stoppard's plays—and this one is no exception—the thing you realize very quickly is that he belongs to the dramatic school of synthesizing and layering information. There are so many philosophical and literary references going on, you barely have the presence of mind to realize that he's just repeated the same scene twice. And I like dissecting that stuff, and I can deal with the literary references, but it makes the whole ordeal seem more like an experiment than a coherent, significant story. I'm giving it a good score on the grounds that it manages to create compelling caricatures of historical figures amid all the chaos. Tzara delights in confusing the living dadadaylights out of you; Lenin is a proud and calculating revolutionary; Joyce is Joyce is Joyce, only Joyceier. Travesties also made me realize that more plays should have dialogue in the form of limericks, so I might just write one.

  • H
    2019-05-21 02:35

    even more confounding than Ros & Guil Are Dead. most if not all of the politics and history went way over my head. memorable lines:TRISTAN TZARA: My God, you bloody English philistine -- you ignorant smart-arse bogus bourgeois Anglo-Saxon prick! When the strongest began to fight for the tribe, and the fastest to hunt, it was the artist who became the priest-guardian of the magic that conjured the intelligence out of the appetites. Without him, man would be a coffee-mill. Eat -- grind -- shit. Hunt -- eat -- fight -- grind -- saw the logs -- shit. The difference between being a man and being a coffee-mill is art. But that difference has become smaller and smaller and smaller. Art created patrons and was corrupted. It began to celebrate the ambitions and acquisitions of the pay-master. The artist has negated himself: paint -- eat -- sculpt -- grind -- write -- shit. (A light change.) Without art man was a coffee-mill: but with art, man -- is a coffee-mill! That is the message of Dada. -- dada dada dada dada dada ... (p29)JAMES JOYCE: You are an over-excited little man, with a need for self-expression far beyond the scope of your natural gifts. This is not discreditable. Neither does it make you an artist. An artist is the magician put among men to gratify -- capriciously -- their urge for immortality. The temples are built and brought down around him, continuously and contiguously, from Troy to the fields of Flanders. If there is any meaning in any of it, it is in what survives as art, yes even in the celebration of tyrants, yes even in the celebration of nonentities. What now of the Trojan War if it had been passed over by the artist's touch? Dust. ... (p41-2)HENRY CARR: I dreamed about him, dreamed I had him in the witness box, a masterly cross-examination, case practically won, admitted it all, the whole thing, the trousers, everything, and I flung at him -- 'And what did you do in the Great War?' 'I wrote Ulysses,' he said. 'What did you do?'Bloody nerve. (p44)

  • Elliot Horen
    2019-04-24 00:29

    3 and 1/2 stars. Bouncing from silly to didactic to absurd, Travesties is ultimately a clever and enjoyable fiction about a confluence of historic characters in early twentieth century Zurich. I read Travesties at the suggestion of the girlfriend and it was something of an aberration for me. I don’t normally read plays, finding some of the humor and action to be lost without performance. Some of the play’s wittiest (and most-eye-catchingly well written) moments—a barrage of limericks and rhyming song/tête-à-tête —seem better suited to the stage than page. But at other moments, I was thankful that dialogue wasn't being spoken rapid-fire. Reviews have described the play as “challenging” and they’re spot-on—even reading, I occasionally struggled to keep up with the pace of historical allusions. But all of that obscures the fact that this play is really fun. Lenin, Tzara, Joyce and the hilariously tone-deaf Carr all engage in banter—sometimes serious, sometimes trivial—that captures the intellectual strife of the time. Travesties plays host to some big conversations about art, economics, and the war and presents them all relatively fairly. These in-play debates are characterized as much by petty squabbles and personal grudges as lofty ideologies, just as they likely were in reality. Travesties brings these legendary figures and ideas back down to Earth and makes for a very entertaining read.There were parts that I didn’t love. The play wanders, relies on the cliché mistaken identity trope for some drama, and includes one too many extended monologues filled only with historical background. It’s a little too postmodern and fractured for my taste as well. But it’s a fantastically imagined and written play and one I’m glad that I had the chance to read.

  • Phillip
    2019-05-08 08:45

    This was a really fun play to read. It is a fascinating meditation on the ways in which memory is shaped, shaded, and distorted by cultural texts. Ostensibly this play is based in the memories of Henry Carr, who worked in the British Consulate in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1917. Also in Zurich at that time (and populating this play) were the revolutionary Bolsheveik V.I. Lenin who would become the leader of the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution, High Modernist author James Joyce who was then working on Ulysses, and Dada anti-art movement founder Tristan Tzara. Joyce led a theatre company called The English Players, who performed Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Ernest, with Carr playing Algernon. Wilde's play becomes a major intertext for Travesties, as Carr misremembers many of the interactions between himself, Tzara, Lenin, and Joyce, conflating those interactions with the dialogue from Wilde's play. The viewer/reader familiar with The Importance will note throughout Stoppard's play how he borrows nearly directly from Wilde, and yet the minor changes Wilde's dialogue undergoes reflect both postmodern irony or silliness and an authorial use of language that rivals Wilde's skill.

  • Willow Redd
    2019-04-24 03:40

    Stoppard is definitely one of my favorite playwrights. I have probably recommended "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" to everyone I know at least twice. So, I'm finally taking a look at Travesties, which was recommended to me through the Goodreads recommendation system after adding R&G. I can definitely see why it's so well respected.After noticing that James Joyce, Lenin and Tristan Tzara (founder of Dadaism) were all in Zurich in 1917, Stoppard took advantage of that fact to try to connect them to the rather obscure character of Henry Carr, British Consul. The play is written from the perspective of Carr as an old man looking back on this very interesting moment in history. Of course, memory being rather fleeting and uncontrollable, Carr seems to be a little muddled about the exact details, confusing what actually happened with his performance of Algernon ("the other one") in Joyce's staging of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest."While the characters discuss the purpose of art and the coming revolution, Carr shadily recollects his part in the events of the day. Stoppard uses his mastery of wit and wordplay to create this beautifully absurd piece of theatrical gold. I'd love to see this performed some day.

  • Tony
    2019-05-05 01:52

    TRAVESTIES. (1975). Tom Stoppard. **.Stoppard has several successful plays under his belt. I don’t know how well this one did in terms of its runs in England and/or New York. My first impression after reading it was that it was extremely preachy. The premise of the play derives from the fact that Stoppard learned that in 1917, three famous people were living in Zurich at the same time. They were James Joyce, Lenin, and Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara. Another key character was Henry Carr, the then current Counselor official, Henry Carr. Joyce was planning to start an English drama club in Zurich with a production of one of Oscar Wilde’s plays. He needed another actor, and the squeeze was put on Carr to take on the role. With all four of these strong characters interacting – primarily in a library setting – we are subjected to long sermons on government and art. The story is told through the medium of an older Mr. Carr (played by the same actor as the younger Mr. Carr) who wanders on stage periodically. The play is mostly about what could have been result of these men meeting at the same time in the same place. I found it hard to care.

  • Emily Fortuna
    2019-05-01 08:47

    Travesties is very much a theatre-nerd's play: it is full of theatre in-jokes and references to other works of literature. While certainly enjoyable and humorous, I found as a play itself, it leaves some to be desired. Because of its in-joke-y-ness it seems like it would not be very accessible to the average theatergoer. One can certainly argue that this is the point, as much of the play examines the nature of art and to whom it is accessible, therefore the play itself is a meta-critique on art (very good Mr. Stoppard, aren't you clever). But as a play in its own right, the layers and layers of the Importance of Being Ernest and everything else did not produce a tremendously satisfying work (in my personal opinion, of course). In sum, I definitely recognize the value of what Stoppard is conveying with all this, but as a play I would see it is personally not my taste.

  • Tom Marcinko
    2019-05-09 03:27

    TZARA: But, my dear Henry, causality is no longer fashionable owing to the war.CARR: How illogical, since the war itself had causes. I forget what they were, but it was in all the papers at the time.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has been a favorite of mine since way back in the 20th century. I was pulled back into reading Stoppard by the @TomStoppardQuotes account on Twitter. (And they say social media doesn't serve the cause of literature.) This mashup of high and low comedy, featuring Lenin, James Joyce, and Dadaism founder Tristan Tzara (they really did live in Zurich at the same time), comes from a 1974 in which the sixties have not yet quite worn off. I especially liked the passage parodying the catechism passages from Ulysses. But Lenin in a wig is something to ponder as well.

  • Daniel
    2019-05-05 08:28

    This is a moderately difficult book to read, but as is the case with a play, it is meant to be seen, not necessarily just read.I had to work very hard at visualizing this, putting myself in the roles of both audience member and director. When I was able to do that (I wasn't always consistent with this) I found that I greatly enjoyed the interaction between the characters.I'm not at all familiar with the works of James Joyce (or Lenin or Tristan Tzara for that matter), but I liked the character as presented and would assume this to be an enjoyable role for a performer and a delight to watch.I don't recommend this as a book to read, but a good production would likely be a real treat.

  • Jc
    2019-05-21 01:28

    Oh my -- for the Tom Stoppard fan, or the fan of absurdist yet deeply thoughtful theater, this is a must read/must see. Recently I did both. I started by reading some introductory material and the first couple of scenes, then saw a wonderful, hilarious professional production of the play (Wisconsin's American Players Theater), and finally completed my read of the script. Typical Stoppard, you need to have a little background in political and literary history to get his jokes, but if you do, Stoppard is a stage comedy genius! [for this one a working knowledge of Shaw, Marxist/Leninist communism, Dadaism, WW I, and James Joyce should suffice to allow you to fully enjoy the play].

  • AB
    2019-04-27 03:33

    Fucking fantastic. I mean, Anything that takes on The Importance of Being Earnest in this manner gets an unqualified A+ from me anyway, but this is just sublime. By the time I finished reading Act I my brain was lit up like a Christmas tree and my nerve endings were hissing and fizzing and I was swooning all over the place; I haven't had so much fun since Angels in America, which is saying a lot. Also I have a feeling that my eventual reading of Ulysses is going to be eminently more enjoyable now, and that can only be a good thing. (Phyllis!)

  • Nicki
    2019-05-09 02:47

    I can tell this would be an absolutely brilliant play....if most of it didn't go right over my head. Chalk it up to the lack of history education given to the Millennials. There were many memorable quotes that, despite my overall sense of being lost, were witty and politically searing. I'm almost certain a man with spectacles and a houndstooth jacket stood up after this play and screamed with delight "FINALLY! A play for historians!" The scene that progresses in limerick form was one of the most memorable to me.

  • Tristan
    2019-05-22 00:30

    A very intellectual play on the affect Art has on government, ideologies and philosophical beliefs. With segments pertaining to Dadaism, Bolsheviks, socialism and communism, we're shown a comedic side to the intellectual "friends" discussing art. Similar to the Lost Generation of Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald etc., and the Beat Generation of Kerouac, Burroughs etc., we see this unrealized generation in Zurich. Although a difficult and superbly intellectual play, I found it very insightful behind art and its affect over history.

  • Dan
    2019-04-30 04:45

    The fact that novelist James Joyce, Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara and political theorist Vladimir Lenin all lived in Zurich, Switzerland at the same time is the basis for a comedy of errors that employs the Hollywood device of the switched briefcase. Hilarity ensues.

  • Oscar
    2019-05-24 05:33

    A story about Dada, Lenin, and James Joyce, set in Zurich, and done in the style of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. All in all, I hear Stoppard's voice less and less in this absolutely insane hodge-podge, but there's something endearing about the messiness, and I find as I read more of the works that the characters have written, I come to understand the in-jokes more. Definitely worth the curiosity, at any rate.

  • Todor
    2019-05-02 00:42

    This play was a fun read and it offers a lot of room for discussion on the topics of art, politics and the way the two interfere with each other. The characters are picked well and I quite enjoyed the Wilde-style humour the author successfully applies. Oh and hopefully more people realize Romania, Bulgaria and the rest of the Balkan countries are NOT an entity and are indeed quite different in many aspects, despite sharing boundaries. Duh!!