Location is crucial to Voyage. The play makes a clear distinction between rural and city life. The Bakunin home is a kind of pastoral paradise where Bakunin and his family can idle away their time, debating the merits of various philosophies. In the second act, although the action is chronologically parallel to the first act, it shows the harsher realities and sacrifices the characters must make for their causes. Location also establishes differences between male and female characters. The women exist almost exclusively in domestic circles. They exert control over the world in a decidedly traditional manner. The men operate in both public and private worlds. Pairing this with the rural-versus-domestic theme explains why the female characters have less stage time in the second act. Once the young men go out into the world to change it, they leave the women behind to endure the consequences at home.

The most important location in the play is Russia. Characters in the play frequently debate the idea of reality. In a sense, the world and Russia exist to the characters only in their perception of them. Michael and Belinsky seem to live in an imaginary “Russia,” and it is this imaginary country that is the most important place in the play. This idealized Russia, or a Russia of the future, is a utopia toward which all of the characters are reaching.

The Coast of Utopia: Voyage Performance Suggestions

The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, along with its two sequels, comes with a unique set of challenges in production. First, the play changes time and place frequently and rapidly. Second, the plays are typically performed in repertory, which means that the design elements must satisfy the needs of all three plays. Third, many of the actors play multiple roles across the three plays and must be clearly distinct for the audience members who attend all three plays.

From a scenic design standpoint, the environments should be evocative without being cumbersome. The first half of Voyage takes place at the Bakunin home, while the second act travels to Moscow. While detailed, realistic sets would be a mistake, a completely abstract set might be confusing to the audience. A framework of the Bakunin house might serve the first act’s action best, while smaller easily removable set pieces would allow for the fluid changes necessary in the second act. Additionally, slides indicating the times of the scenes noted in Stoppard’s script would aid in conveying the passage of time.

Since actors rarely change character within each play, the costumes in Voyage can be much more detailed than the set and in fact should be. Given the large size of the cast, costumes will be invaluable in helping to establish character quickly. Michael’s headstrong nature, Liubov’s delicacy, and Belinsky’s eccentric brilliance could all be accentuated by their attire. Costuming will be especially important for the ginger cat, whose appearance should be ominous and avoid any hint of the ridiculous.

Music and sound effects will also aid in communicating the change in time throughout Voyage. Scenes that are short need not seem abrupt if the segues into subsequent scenes are smoothly executed. The lighting for the production should be closely tied to the use of sound and movement; in essence, they should be considered one design...

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The Coast of Utopia: Voyage Bibliography

Allen, Brooke. 2007. “No Place.” New Criterion, April, 51(5). This essay on The
Coast of Utopia
trilogy focuses on its historical sources.

Barker, Roberta. 2005. “The Circle Game: Time, and ‘Revolution’ in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia.” Modern Drama, Winter, 706(20). This essay examines the complex gender dynamics in Stoppard’s trilogy.

Teachout, Terry. 2007. “Utopians on Stage.” Commentary, April, 62(4). Teachout discusses all three plays in The Coast of Utopia cycle.

Wohl, David. 2003. “Review of The Coast of Utopia.” Theatre Journal, May, 348-352. Wohl provides an extended review of the British production of The Coast of Utopia.

Wren, Celia. 2007. “Literature & Revolution: Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia.” Commonweal, March 9, 17(1). Wren discusses a performance of Voyage at the Lincoln Center Theater.