The Coast of Utopia

The Coast of Utopia is a 2002 trilogy of plays: Voyage, Shipwreck, and Salvage, written by Tom Stoppard with focus on the philosophical debates in pre-revolution Russia between 1833 and 1866. It was the recipient of the 2007 Tony Award for Best Play. The title comes from a chapter in Avrahm Yarmolinsky's book Road to Revolution: A Century of Russian Radicalism (1959).

The Coast of Utopia
Written byTom Stoppard
CharactersAlexander Herzen
Vissarion Belinsky
Ivan Turgenev
Mikhail Bakunin
Date premiered22 June 2002
Place premieredOlivier Theatre
London, England
Original languageEnglish
SeriesThe Coast of Utopia:
Settingpre-revolution Russia

The trilogy, nine hours in total, premiered with Voyage on 22 June 2002 at the National Theatre's Olivier auditorium in repertory, directed by Trevor Nunn. The openings of Shipwreck and Salvage followed on 8 July, and 19 July, completing its run on 23 November 2002. In 2006, directed by Jack O'Brien, the plays debuted on Broadway at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, New York City, where it closed on 13 May 2007 after a combined total of 124 performances.

The trilogy has also been performed in Russia; it opened at Moscow's Russian Academic Youth Theatre in October 2007, directed by Alexey Borodin.

The trilogy received its Japanese premiere at Theater Cocoon, Bunkamura in Tokyo on 12 September 2009 and completed its run (including 10 one-day marathon performances) on 4 October 2009. The production was directed by Yukio Ninagawa.

Production history

London premiere

Directed by Trevor Nunn, the trilogy premiered with Voyage at the Olivier Theatre in London on 22 June 2002, followed by Shipwreck and Salvage with a six-month run ended on 23 November 2002.[1]

Reviewing the play in The Guardian, drama critic Michael Billington wrote, "Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia in the Olivier is a bundle of contradictions. Comprising three three-hour plays, it is heroically ambitious and wildly uneven. ... But I wouldn't have missed it for worlds and at its heart it contains a fascinating lesson about the nature of drama."[2] He further commented on Stoppard the dramatist, "I think it is time we began to appreciate Stoppard not for his intellectual legerdemain, but for what he is actually best at: exploring the mystery of existence, the anguish of the human heart and the strange fact that it is our apprehension of death that gives joy and intensity to life."[3]

Broadway debut

The trilogy's Broadway debut was directed by Jack O'Brien at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York City. The cast included Brían F. O'Byrne, Richard Easton, Jennifer Ehle, Billy Crudup, Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, Martha Plimpton, David Harbour, Jason Butler Harner and Amy Irving.[4] Viewed as "the season's ultimate snob ticket",[4] the production ran from November 2006 to May 2007 with a combined total of 124 performances.

In his review for The New York Times, Ben Brantley called the production "brave and gorgeous", adding that "I wouldn't call it [the play] a major work of art. In literary terms I wouldn't even rank it with Mr. Stoppard's best (in which I include the Broadway-bound Rock 'n' Roll). But as directed by Jack O'Brien and acted and designed by a stellar team of artisans, Utopia is a major work of theatrical craftsmanship, a luscious advertisement for the singular narrative seductiveness of drama."[4]

The production was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won seven, breaking the Tony record for the most awards given to a play.[5][6]

Characters and cast

The following table indicates the roles played by the main cast in London, New York, and Moscow, respectively. Several principal actors played multiple roles in each of the three plays.

Role in VoyageRole in ShipwreckRole in SalvageActor in London, 2002Actor in New York, 2006Actor in Moscow, 2007
Alexander HerzenStephen DillaneBrían F. O'ByrneIlya Isaev
Liubov BakuninNatalie HerzenMalwida von MeysenbugEve BestJennifer EhleNelly Uvarova
Vissarion Belinskyn/aWill KeenBilly CrudupEvgeny Redko
Ivan TurgenevGuy HenryJason Butler HarnerAlexey Miasnikov
Mikhail BakuninDouglas HenshallEthan HawkeStepan Morozov
Alexander BakuninLeonty IbayevStanislaw WorcellJohn CarlisleRichard EastonViktor Tsymbal
Varenka BakuninNatasha TuchkovaNatasha Tuchkova OgarevaCharlotte EmmersonMartha PlimptonRamilya Iskander

Awards and nominations

  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Play
  • 2007 New York Drama Critics' Circle Best Play
  • 2007 Tony Award for Best Play
  • 2007 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Music for a Play (Mark Bennett)


  1. "The Coast of Utopia: Voyage". Royal National Theatre. 2008. Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 29 June 2008.
  2. Billington, Michael (5 August 2002). "The Coast of Utopia". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  3. Billington, Michael (7 August 2002). "The real thing". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  4. Brantley, Ben (19 February 2007). "Those Storm-Tossed Revolutionaries Reach Port". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  5. Robertson, Campbell (15 May 2007). "'Spring Awakening' Gets 11 Tony Nominations". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  6. Robertson, Campbell (11 June 2007). "'Coast of Utopia' Breaks a Tony Record for Awards Given to a Play". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2011.

Further reading

  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Voyage. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21661-7.
  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Shipwreck. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21662-5.
  • Stoppard, Tom (2002). The Coast of Utopia: Salvage. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21664-1.
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