Review: Tom Stoppard on text and performance

A review of Sir Tom Stoppard’s lecture as Humanitas Professor of Drama at Oxford University.

The Oxford Culture Review

How much “Shakespeare” is there in a Shakespeare play? A facetious question, perhaps. But it’s a question that is peculiarly specific to the theatre — how much of the author can one distinguish in a play text? Unlike the novel, with its possibilities for narrative stretches where the author’s “voice” can emerge, in plays the author is heard through the lens of an actor playing a character. And that’s before you take in to account the director, stage and sound design, costumes, lighting… Of course, in poetry and prose the author can also adopt masks and assume characters, but the presence of multiple voices is more acute when dealing with live events such as plays. This relationship between page and stage, and the position of the playwright’s authorial voice, provided the subject for Sir Tom Stoppard’s first lecture as the Humanitas Visiting Professor of Drama at Oxford University. With characteristic…

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