Tom Stoppard was born in Zlin, Czechoslovakia (now Gottwaldov, Czech Republic) on July 3, 1937. Stoppard's father, Eugene Straussler, was a company physician whose company sent him to a branch factory in Singapore in 1938/1939. In 1941, before the Japanese invasion, Mrs. Straussler and her two sons were evacuated to India by the British Army. Tragically, Mr. Straussler stayed behind in Singapore and was killed in 1946. Mrs. Straussler remarried Mr. Kenneth Stoppard, a major in the British Army who moved the family to Bristol, England. Tom Stoppard (who took the name of his stepfather) quit school when he was seventeen to write as a journalist. His career began at the Western Daily Press where he was a "cub" reporter, covering film and theatre. After four years there, he moved on to the Bristol Evening World, where he worked for two years. In 1960 Tom started writing plays, and in 1965 his plays were featured in an anthology of new writers called Introduction 2.
Stoppard's first full-length play was A Walk on the Water, which originally was scripted for television and aired in 1963. The stage version was produced in 1964 in Berlin and Vienna. Under a new title, Enter a Free Man, the play went to London in 1968. Stoppard has described this work as unoriginal, a composite of several plays he admired. Stoppard's infamous and career defining Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival in 1966 and later produced at Britain's National Theatre in 1967. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead went to New York in 1968 and brought home a Tony and the New York Drama Critic's Award. Jumpers was introduced into the 1972–1973 London season, followed by Every Good Boy deserves Favour in 1977 with a score by Andre Previn and the Tony Award winning Travesties in 1974. Shepard has produced screenplays and stage works consistently. Stoppard has written twenty-two plays and one novel, Lord Malquist and Mr. Moon. Stoppard has also been a successful writer for the screen, including Brazil,Empire of the Sun, and Shakespeare in Love, a collaboration with Marc Norman, which won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Picture. Arcadia was first produced on the Lyttleton stage at the National Theatre on April 13, 1993 and was directed by Trevor Nunn. Arcadia met instant critical acclaim. The Daily Telegraph critic reported, "I have never left a play more convinced that I'd just witnessed a masterpiece". The play went on to be produced in New York, at the Arena stage in Washington, D.C., and in London at the Haymarket Theatre where it ran until 1995 with two casts. New York Times theater critic Vincent Canby described the play as "a dream of levitation: you're instantaneously aloft, soaring, banking, doing loop-the-loops and then, when you think you're about to plummet to earth, swooping to a gentle touchdown of not easily described sweetness and sorrow." Robert Hurwitt, of the San Francisco Examiner raved, "If ideas were flesh and all conception carnal, Tom Stoppard would be the sexiest writer of the modern stage." Tom Stoppard has been married two times, once in 1965 and again in 1971. He was married to his first wife, Jose Ingle for six years. The couple had two boys. In 1971, Stoppard married Dr. Marian Moore-Robinson, with whom he had two more sons.
Orchestrated madness is back on stage at the National, where a newly recast version of Tom Stoppard and André Previn's 1977 play for actors and orchestra returns to the repertoire. Adrian Schiller is the Russian political prisoner Alexander who has been confined to a state mental hospital, and Julian Bleach, relishing madness, is his cellmate Ivanov, a genuine lunatic who hears music in his head and insists he has a full orchestra under his charge. Jonathan Aris is the violin-playing doublespeak doctor who toes the party line and tells the prisoner that "your opinions are your symptoms; your disease is dissent".
The pleasure is all in the staging by Felix Barrett and Tom Morris and in the way that the on-stage Southbank Sinfonia orchestra, which plays Previn's score so expressively, is used as a metaphor for the all-powerful and labyrinthine USSR itself.
The best moment comes in a sequence – choreographed with customary brilliance by Maxine Doyle – when state-sponsored thugs emerge from the orchestra to mug the violinists. By the end of the show, the orchestra is disbanded, its scores scattered to the winds, as indeed was the USSR itself.
Despite the bleakness of the story, inspired by the real experiences of 1970s Russians incarcerated in state mental hospitals for daring to criticise the government, it is very watchable. In fact, almost too much so. Although the production – with astonishing lighting by Bruno Poet, which offers its own searing and shadowy emotional palette – attempts to make the political personal, Stoppard's amiably absurd and ironic script undercuts the emotional clout.
In 1977, it may well have seemed potent, but shorn of its immediate, horrific political relevancy, this brief play emerges as a very clever, entertaining and expensive joke.