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Rock 'n' Roll

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,087 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Rock ’n’ Roll is an electrifying collision of the romantic and the revolutionary. It is 1968 and the world is ablaze with rebellion, accompanied by a sound track of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Clutching his prized collection of rock albums, Jan, a Cambridge graduate student, returns to his homeland of Czechoslovakia just as Soviet tanks roll into Prague. When securit ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published May 10th 2007 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 2006)
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Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareWaiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
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Average rating 3.70  · 
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 ·  1,087 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
For you, freedom means, ‘Leave me alone.’ For the masses it means, ‘Give me a chance.’

Wonderful exposition on the possibility of dissent. Layered with pop culture, the scene of Rock ‘N’ Roll switches back and forth between Cambridge and Prague from 1968 to 1992. A Czech grad student leaves the UK to return to Czechoslovakia as the Prague Spring comes to an untidy end. His academic advisor at Cambridge is a lifelong Marxist and myriad family dramas unfold across decades while the turntable provid
Trevor (I no longer get notified of comments)
This does all of the things you would expect a play about 1968 in Czechoslovakia and up to the fall of the Soviet Union and a bit beyond would do. Essentially, expect to have your heart ripped out by Stoppard here. The criminality of Socialism is no where better described than in works like this or The Unbearable Lightness of Being where highly educated people are forced to work in menial jobs as a rather ironic form of punishment for people supposed to believe in the nobility of the working cla ...more
Dec 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Stoppard fans, history buffs, Syd Barrett admirers
Shelves: arts
Digging into my holiday presents early with this one, and devoured it in two days. (Then again, plays tend to be short... all dialogue and action must be performable in a single sitting not to exceed three hours and bear in mind that it usually takes less time to read in your head what you would otherwise say aloud.) The plot of this one is easily summarized, so I'll dispense with it quickly. Rock 'N' Roll follows the lives of a communist Cambridge professor and his Czech protege in snapshots fr ...more
Jan 09, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: drama
The newest work from a master playwright. The story focuses on a grad student named Jan who returns to his home country of Czechoslovakia around the same time of the Soviet invasion; and his mentor Max who is dealing with family issues back home in England. The play traces their politically active lives over the course of two decades. The story’s title comes from its reliance upon the revolutionary roots of music and the power of art to transform society via acts of rebellion (although I am simp ...more
Aug 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Bought this in London last summer after seeing the play, which was complex, funny, sad and amazing. For me, it came down to the heartbreak of the possibility that your heroes aren't what they seem, and the crushing realization that your loyalties/ideals/dreams may have been misplaced all along. ...more
Jan 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
Stoppard’s most recent play is a tale of political and social revolution set to the music of rock and roll, with a meditation on ideology’s inflexibilities chucked in for balance. Set in Cambridge and Czechoslovakia in shifting scenes that jump forward from 1968 to 1990. An old leftie has to come to grips with the failures and then the fall of European communism. Two Czech friends battle over signing letters of protest—the nihilist rock and roller refuses to sign one, then the journalist/politic ...more
M. H.
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: plays
On the surface is a play full of sex, politics & rock 'n' roll. Underneath that surface is a yearning to change the world for the better. A yearning play that is both personal and symbolic. (likely MPAA "R" for strong language) Note: excellent monologues for men 20-60 and women 40+.

This play spans nearly thirty years and takes place near Cambridge University, England and in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Music is hugely important to this play a number of very specific rock 'n' roll songs are referenced
Oct 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Tom Stoppard is one of my favorite contemporary playwrights and this 2006 play does not disappoint (I will see the play performed next week in Toronto). The Czech born Stoppard returns to his roots with this play about the years between the Prague Spring of 1969 and the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The book is dedicated to Stoppard's friend, Vaclav Havel. I would say that Havel is also S's hero, but I think that he doesn't believe in heros, as he has one of his leading characters, Jan, say:

Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
Like a lot of Stoppard plays, Rock 'N' Roll bears a dense weight of ambition, exposition, and information; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it slips between multiple time periods; like a lot of Stoppard plays, it's concerned with the slippage between personal connection and political event, how history shapes the individual and the individual shapes history.

Most of those other Stoppard plays are much better.

Full review:
Tom O'Brien
Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
This is the first Stoppard I've read that haven't particularly liked. While it's technically and structurally strong, the characters feel too much like vehicles for political propositions for my taste, without committing to them as that.

It also lacks the verbal dexteritiy I expect from Tom Stoppard, but that's more my problem than his, I acknowledge.
Oct 13, 2017 added it
This play is quite interesting. It packs a lot of history, but is really just about people trying to live their lives. So far I’m loving playing Lenka.
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bellow, plays, czech, litlit
A friend introduced me to Stoppard in school, before I moved to Czechia, and it was long after that I realized his connection.  This is a lovely rediscussion of dissent in a way that hopefully was more accessible to western audiences than some of the samizdat.
Larry Bassett
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
I first heard of this Tom Stoppard play when I was reading Disturbing the Peace by Václav Havel. The play was referred to as a companion piece to the book in one of the GR reviews. Stoppard is an admirer of Havel. The play overlaps with the events of Prague Spring, the Velvet Revolution and ensuing years. Rock ‘n’ Roll was first performed in London on June 3, 2006 and in North America in New York City on October 19, 2007. The play is set in Prague, Czechoslovakia and Cambridge, England from 19 ...more
Jul 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
A perfect marriage of the personal and the political occur in Stoppard's insightful, smaller work from 2006. Concerned as most of his work is with the ideological--as it loses verve under oppression or repression of the human spirit--his characters here leap from the page (for the most part; per usual, his side characters sometimes suffer at the hand of adding interesting vocal rhythms to the piece).

The lives of British Communist Max and his pupil Jan intersect across the years of the aging Comm
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nietzsche wrote in Twilight of the Idols that “Without music, life would be a mistake.” And from reading some of the reviews about this play on a website about books it's never been more apparent. This was not, and has never been, a play intended to be read. The title is a signifier to the political landscape out of which the revolutionary social scenes of late 60s Europe emerged. It's Stoppard's most personal play, not just because of the great script, but because of the way he utilises music a ...more
Aug 14, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody at all.
I'm tempted to dismiss this as pure excruciating drivel, but I can only judge it by the NYC production, which was one of the most boring things I've ever had to sit through in my life.

Trevor Nunn worked his own special brand of evil on this play, drawing out about 45 minutes worth of plot into over three hours of talk talk talk and then more talk, with extended blackouts so that the turntable set could be moved about thirty degrees, while the audience got to sit in near total darkness listening
Molly Willis
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A clever, intelligent representation of both Rock N Roll music and the Czechoslovakian conflict in the 70s and most importantly, how they are intertwined.
For somebody young like me, this play requires a LOT of research, but my God is it worth it.
The characters are presented with incredible realism. Most are intelligent, some are just beautiful people.
Tom Stoppard uses history, music, wit and characterisation so perfectly that you get completely lost and entertained.
This play has made such an i
Jun 09, 2009 rated it liked it
This should have been terrific, with its focus on the resistance of the dissidents in communist Czechoslovakia and the role of rock 'n' roll in the youth rebellion of the 60s and 70s. It's witty and smart, and Stoppard's clearly passionate about the subject (his own family were refugees from C.), but it ends up feeling awfully didactic. I found it hard to sympathize with Max, a British academic/armchair communist, and found the human relationships oddly bloodless. But it was fun looking up clips ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: plays
I'm not sure I understand this play. I assume it would be better in performance. But on the page, it falls short for me. Too much talking about ideas, and arguments over ideologies, without enough interpersonal drama. Not that there isn't any, but it takes a clear backseat to politics. The subplot involving Syd Barrett was interesting, though, and I enjoyed the use of him as the "Piper" at the beginning.

So, I didn't really like the play, but I have got to be missing something because it's suppos
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theater
I don't know why it took me so long to read this work by a writer I admire, but I thoroughly enjoyed this. As usual there are a lot of ideas in play and I'd love to see those ideas illuminated in a good production; reading any play is always half a loaf at best. Rock n' Roll isn't as tightly constructed a work as Stoppard's masterpiece Arcadia; it rolls to a stop rather than ending. Yet the way Stoppard blends politics, music, sex, death, and generational change here is very exciting. Strongly r ...more
Oct 15, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama
This is much better on the stage than on the page. I will never not love Alice, but the relationships are *hard* to parse in text (or maybe that's just me; an actor or director would likely get a little more from it), and the politics do not come across well. I don't know if this is one of Stoppard's better works, or if it's just more technically adept than much of his previous work, or what. (Also, Plastic People of Universe, as a band, *suck*.) ...more
Feb 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: drama
Watching Cahoot's Macbeth has made me think about this play again.

I went to see it in a negative frame of mind. Fictional adaptation of history is what happens when writers run out of ideas. Not so, not so. This is such a good play. It imparts something that is important for people in soft societies to understand. Popular culture in a place like Czechoslovakia in the 1960s was really important. It was integral to politics.It changed lives. People fought for it and died for it.
Michael P.
Feb 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A bit of a let down after the masterpiece trilogy THE COAST OF UTOPIA, but story of the fall of Communism in the Chech republic is still great. Rock 'n Roll as a metaphor for rebellion against even such a repressive regime works very well, and is historically accurate. Most of the music is great too, though the Chech band is pretty terrible. See this play if you can find a good production, and read it if you can't. ...more
Chuck O'Connor
Mar 06, 2011 rated it liked it
I need to see this live. I often can be moved by plays as read but Stoppard's characters have a tendency to live within ideology which keeps them from being people I can connect with. The theatricality of using rock and roll to move the story through the political periodicity of the Czech revolution is clever but has no impact simply described on the page. I think I'd like this as a show but as a read I don't find the characters struggle emotional enough to carry me through the story. ...more
Oct 27, 2011 rated it liked it
Halfway through, I remembered why Stoppard bothers me: his protagonists generally embody all the same traits that make Hamlet so infuriating. That is, they're all talk and no action.

Otherwise, the remaining characters are interesting and I wish the play had been about the lot of them, excising Jan altogether.

Good quote: “You think human nature is a beast, that it must be put in a cage. But it's the cage that makes the animal bad.”
Mary Beth
Aug 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
As is typical for him, Stoppard has a lot of different ideas in play in Rock ’n’ Roll—about ideals and reality, nonconformity and resistance, the physical and the mystical, poetry and rock ’n’ roll, loyalty and love—but somehow he weaves all the knotty, colorful threads into a brilliant tapestry. No one writes passionate intellectualism quite like Stoppard, and the dogged, humanistic optimism of this particular play is touching.
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This has been called Stoppard's most personal and emotional play, and I can see why. It does not, however, lack the allusions, masterful dialog, and slightly odd characters that mark his other works. A fascinating exploration of what it means to be a dissident, art, democracy, and totalitarianism. ...more
Morgan Stanton
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Theater at its best, burning with intellect and humanity. I've previously found Stoppard to be too cerebral, too clever; this play has forced me to reconsider both the playwright and his body of work. Spanning the Prague Spring in 1968 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, this play deals with love, political disillusionment, and freedom. ...more
Aug 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Saw it in London, loved it, absolutely had to read it. The staging blew me away. Reading it helped me think more deeply about its themes. It explores the relationship between music, though it could be any artistic expression of the people, to The State which wishes to control them. Hard to sum up, but a really exciting work.
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright. Born Tomáš Straussler. See ...more

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