06/01/2012 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

Tom Stoppard in conversation with Jonathon Biggins.
presented by the Sydney Opera House, December 2011.

“Theatre is an event.” One of several memorable quotes I jotted down during this enlightening tete-a-tete in the Concert Hall down at Bennelong Point. One might add, an event which upon finishing insisted all the patrons scram immediately to their respective car-parks, since the bar was not open for post-conversation-conversations between those of us whose minds had been set alight by various notions of freedom, conservatism, privacy, journalism and Utopian thought. Shame, since the crowd was of candid and curious minds, familiar faces from across the sector filled the foyer, fascinated by the breadth and lightness of Stoppardian wisdom; might have turned the event into a true happening if we had been allowed to carry on these many thought-threads struck up by the master wordsmith in the short space of an hour with change…

Small controversies notwithstanding (see storm-in-a-speakup regarding SOH’s apparent marginalisation of journalists as interviewers) we discovered an interesting tid-bit of insight into the character of the man when he alluded to the conversation between artist and audience in the following (with apologies for any paraphrasing):

“Now the audience looks at a piece of art and says ‘I could do that’ – and the artist replies ‘Yes, you could, but you didn’t, and I did’ … *cue laughter*”

What struck me was how Sir Stoppard, when adopting the voice to portray the artist, spoke in a sort of faux-Eastern-European-accent. Perhaps he meant to mimic the voice of Tzara in Travesties – the quintessential artist as writ by Sir Stoppard for the theatre – or perhaps there was a deeper underlying subtext we can draw out. Is the artist this exotic outsider, trapped in the body of a social conservative?

I am reminded in reflection of the moment in Stanislavski’s Building a Character, when Constantin creates this theatrical version of his inner critic without knowing who or what he is making until he has finished. The tone of Sir Stoppard’s inner artist’s voice rings true amid the formalised monitored vocalisations of the man In Conversation, for which each word seems carefully but casually chosen, each sentence laid out like impenetrable brickwork, a structured kind of wisdom, thought-through and monumental, difficult to see all-at-once.

But for me, despite all the ideas of interest and illumination – this one moment of clarity was the highlight – the briefest of glimpses into the character of the man himself.

My notes were copious and I will follow up with some further discussions of some of the more salient thoughts brought to bear in a belated post-show conversation we never got to have.


Entry filed under: Sydney THEATRE.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Your email address is private and will not be passed on to a 3rd party.

Join 1,382 other followers

on twitter

contact author:


since 2009

  • 25,900 hits

%d bloggers like this: