Travesties – Tom Stoppard (1974)

Travesties is a 1974 play by Tom Stoppard. The play centres on the figure of Henry Carr, an elderly man who reminisces about Zürich in 1917 during the First World War, and his interactions with James Joyce when he was writing Ulysses, Tristan Tzara during the rise of Dada, and Lenin leading up to the Russian Revolution, all of whom were living in Zürich at that time. The play is primarily set in Zürich, Switzerland during the First World War. At that time, three important personalities were living in Zürich: the modernist author James Joyce, the communist revolutionary Lenin, and Dada founder Tristan Tzara. The play centres on the less notable Henry Carr, a British consular official (also mentioned in Joyce’s novel Ulysses), as he recalls his perceptions and experiences with these influential figures. As he reminisces, Carr’s memory becomes prone to distraction, and instead of predictable historical biography, these characters are interpreted through the maze of his mind. Carr’s memories are couched in a Zürich production of Oscar Wilde‘s play The Importance of Being Earnest in which he had a starring role. Stoppard uses this production and Carr’s mixed feelings surrounding it as a framework to explore art, the war and revolution. Situations from Earnest feature prominently within the action. The characters in Travesties also include versions of two characters from Earnest, Gwendolen and Cecily, and the comedic situations of many of the other roles are shared by other characters. Stoppard uses many linguistic devices within the play, including puns, limericks, and an extended parody of the vaudeville song ‘Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean‘. … Joyce later parodied Carr, and the English Consul General in Zürich at that time, A. Percy Bennett, as two minor characters in Ulysses, with Carr being portrayed as a drunken, obscene soldier in the ‘Circe‘ episode. …”
Tom Stoppard on why his classic Travesties still has its mojo
Guardian: Travesties review – a tonic from start to finish
Travesties — Tom Stoppard
Grove Atlantic

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