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On Stage

On Stage: Stoppard's 'Leopoldstadt' Is His Most Personal Work

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You could be forgiven if you thought Tom Stoppard, at the age of 81, had given up writing for the stage, but you would also be wrong. Leopoldstadt is his latest and is set in 1900 Vienna, the Jewish quarter, and follows the fortunes of a successful Jewish family who have escaped the pogroms. 

The play is said to be Stoppard’s most personal work, which is unusual, as he is famously not one to draw from his own life, and often, when asked where he got his ideas, he has replied “Harrods.” 

In the case of Leopoldstadt, however, the playwright has admitted that much of it is quite personal. He was born Tomas Straussler in 1937, and it was just two years later that his parents fled Moravia from the threat of the Nazis and moved to Singapore. In 1942, he escaped from the Japanese invasion on a boat to Australia with his mother and brother, but they were diverted and ended up in Bombay. Meanwhile, his father was killed in Singapore. All four grandparents died in Nazi concentration camps. His mother married Kenneth Stoppard, an officer in the British army, in 1946, and in 1950, the family moved to England.

Stoppard says he took a year to write the play, but the material had been conceptualizing in him for much longer. Leopoldstadt is set to premiere at Wyndham's Theatre in London on January 25th and will run until June 13th.