A Play for Actors and Orchestra
by Tom Stoppard with music by André Previn
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Ian McKellen in the role of Alexander
Royal Festival Hall, London
1 July 1977

Comments and Reviews
"Virtually assaulting the audience with a cascade of words and a conspicuous display of intellect, Stoppard, in Every Good Boy Deserves Favor, contrasts the circumstances of a political prisoner and a mental patient in a Soviet insane asylum, to question the difference, if any, between free will and the freedom to conform. The situation, in which the mental patient 'hears' an orchestra, is both chilling and funny as we are introduced to two men who happen to share the same name, are incarcerated in the same cell, and are attended by the same doctor." — from the 1978 Grove Press edition. 

In 1974, composer André Previn approached playwright Tom Stoppard with the idea of creating a play that would feature a live symphony orchestra on stage. Two years later, Stoppard found a suitable subject when he met Victor Fainberg, a Russian political dissident. Fainberg had been arrested in 1968, diagnosed by state psychiatrists as insane, and confined for five years in the notorious Soviet prison/hospital system. By 1976 he had left Russia and was working to secure the release of fellow-dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. Stoppard writes of Bukovsky: "He was not a man to be broken or silenced; an insistent, discordant note, one might say, in an orchestrated society."

Thanks to an international campaign, Bukovsky was released in December 1976 and exiled. In June 1977, he attended a rehearsal of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour in Covent Garden. The play is dedicated to him and to Victor Fainberg.

Theatre Poster

Rehearsing with John Wood (L)