'On the Razzle' at Putney Arts Theatre

Verbal gymnastics from Tom Stoppard

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On the Razzle showcases the talent for verbal gymnastics that made Tom Stoppard famous at its lightest and most playful. On watching the original production of The Guardian’s reviewer Michael Billington was so uplifted that he suggested that criticism needed a new verb: to Stoppard, meaning to retain the structure of a Viennese farce, decorate it with puns and doubles entendres and “send it spinning on the stage.”

When Zangler, owner of an upmarket grocery shop, heads into the city to wine and dine his fiancée, his two assistants abandon decide that they must “acquire a past before it’s too late” with one last glorious night of adventure before settling down to a humdrum life behind the counter. A series of increasingly absurd and convoluted subterfuges are required to avoid discovery as they career through fashionable Vienna, encountering bagpipers, parrots and a sex-obsessed hansom cabman.

(LtoR Rufus Cooper (Weinberl) Alan Waldock
,(Zangler) Emily Fellows (Christopher)

The play is adapted from a mid nineteenth century farce by Johann Nestroy, a playwright as admired as Shakespeare in his native Austria, but virtually unknown in Britain. Stoppard described his adaptation as “cross country hiking with map and compass”, identifying the next landmark in Nestroy’s plot and picking his own way towards it.

“All the main characters and most of the plot come from Nestroy,” wrote Stoppard in the programme of the 1981 National Theatre production. “But not much of the dialogue attempts to offer a proper translation of what Nestroy wrote; and anything improper has less to do with Nestroy than with my unregretful capitulation to the possibilities of sexual innuendo as and when they occurred.”

Director Stuart Watson is no stranger to Stoppard’s plays, having directed Dogg’s Hamlet, Cahoot’s Macbeth for Putney Theatre Company in 2005 and the playwright’s most recent work, Rock ‘n’ Roll at the Questors Theatre in Ealing last year. However, On the Razzle holds a special significance for him: “Razzle was my first encounter with Stoppard, aged twelve, playing the Ragamuffin in the mid-1980s in Hereford,” he says.

“I’m not sure how much of it I really understood back then, but the breakneck pace, the silliness and the obvious delight in wordplay must have made an impression on me because I have been watching, acting in or directing Stoppard’s plays most of my adult life.”

On the Razzle is being perform fromTuesday 1st - Saturday 5th November at 7.45pm


October 31, 2011