Thursday, April 10, 2008

Stoppard on Hapgood

With Hapgood about to be revived by Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Tom Stoppard tells Sam Marlowe in The Times about how he came to write the play.
Stoppard's obsession was particle physics, which his son Oliver was studying at PhD level while the play was being written. (Stoppard has four sons, two by his first marriage to Josie Ingle, two - including the actor Ed - by his second, to Dr Miriam Stoppard, née Moore-Robinson). Stoppard saw in physics a metaphor for human nature. Does light operate like a bullet or a wave? The answer is, both - depending on whether it's being observed or not. So too people, who have different selves sharing the one body, which appear or disappear depending on who's looking.

Stoppard alighted on “the world of John le Carré” as the form to accommodate these ideas, he says, “because both quantum physics and espionage relate to the ultimate impossibility of observing the truth of a situation; of ever knowing what's truly happening.” The result was a play that constantly confounds the viewer's expectations, and whose mix of physics and spying achieves what Michael Frayn later took two separate plays (Copenhagen and Democracy) to cover adequately.

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