The sense of displacement that began in Shipwreck is further developed in Salvage. The characters find themselves in a new location, England, and are further distanced from their native Russia. In addition, a new generation of characters is introduced in Salvage that have no knowledge of their mother country. Russia for them is simply an idea, and this further separates them from Herzen’s generation. Never is this more keenly felt than in the juxtaposition of Herzen to his son, Sasha.

In Salvage, the setting is indicative of ideals, dreams and relationships. The Russia that seems lost to Herzen is not merely the land and its inhabitants (though that loss is not insignificant). Herzen has lost the Russia that was supposed to be, the utopian Russia that he and his friends and comrades foresaw as young people. In a sense, Herzen’s rejection of the utopian ideals is a recognition of the faulty idealism of their youth. The Russia he and his contemporaries lost never existed, nor was it ever going to exist. In its place came a new Russia, one not untouched by the efforts of Herzen and company, but not a utopia of any kind.

In more tangible terms, the lost Russia also represents the people lost along the way, who died without seeing the realization of their efforts. The absence of Belinsky is keenly felt in Salvage, as are the ghosts of Herzen’s lost wife and son (not to mention his mother). Furthermore, of the characters that remain, many of their relationships have suffered and fractured. Ogarev, who so fondly recalled his youth with Herzen at the end of Shipwreck, has seen two wives betray him by the end of Salvage. Herzen, too, seems unable to find the perfect match for him. Much of the happiness these characters felt at the beginning of Voyage is lost by the final scene of Salvage, in which Herzen delivers a kind of eulogy to the whole movement and The Coast of Utopia trilogy itself.


Performance Suggestions

Since Salvage takes the audience to the end of The Coast of Utopia trilogy, the passage of time and the effects of the journey should be evident in all aspects of the production. The biggest challenge in this regard falls to the actors themselves. In both the London and New York productions of the plays, the same actor always played characters that recur in more than one of the plays. The exceptions to this rule were child characters that had to age within the course of one play. For example, in Salvage, Herzen’s son Sasha was played by two different actors because of the jump in age. For the adults who play characters like Herzen, Michael Bakunin and Ogarev, the actors must age three decades in the span of nine hours (the total running time of all three plays, typically). In both London and New York, special marathon performances of all three plays in a single day were given. This performance schedule makes the necessity for subtle and believable changes in age crucial for the audience to remain invested in the story. In both design and performance, the less overt the changes are, the more successful they will be. Gradual additions of weight, changes in wigs and different styles of dress will work if they are not too drastic. This is especially important for Herzen, who is onstage for much of Shipwreck and Salvage. For the actor playing Bakunin, the shifts will be more challenging because of his limited stage time in the latter plays. From an acting standpoint physical and vocal adjustments should be minor, and any obvious “acting old” or “acting young” tricks should be avoided.

From a design standpoint, Salvage needs to reflect a different location (much of the action takes place in London) as well as difference in tone. Salvage is a play about ideas and dreams that were lost, compromised or forgotten. A sense of decay should be reflected in the age of the furniture and other set pieces. In addition, design concepts from the earlier two plays should be reincorporated to maintain a feeling of connectedness among the three works. A piece of furniture from Voyage might reappear in a tattered state at some point in Salvage. Characters from earlier plays who do not appear in Salvage (such as Natalie and Belinsky) can “haunt” the play through music, sound and lighting motifs. Salvage is a play whose dramatic unity (both in itself and in conjunction with the previous plays) hinges on a pervading sense of history.


Balee, Susan. 2007. “English Knights, American Stages: David Hare and Tom Stoppard on
Broadway, 2006-07.” Michigan Quarterly Review, 46 (4): 600-614. Balee's review of Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia compares it to the recent work of David Hare.

McCarter, Jeremy. 2007. “Arise, Ye Prisoners of Tom Stoppard: Somehow, the Eight Hours of
Dialogue in The Coast of Utopia Leave One Hungry for More Talk.” New York, March 5, 70(2). This article praises much of the trilogy's acting and favors the intellectual sparring over the personal drama. 

Nadel, Ira B. 2004. “Tom Stoppard: In the Russian Court.” Modern Drama, Fall, 500(25). Nadel's article traces the origins of Stoppard’s interest in Russian history and literature and its eventual manifestation in The Coast of Utopia.

Neufeld, James. 2007. “Brave New World: Tom Stoppard on the Coast of Utopia.” Queen’s
, Fall, 406(16). Neufeld reviews the entire Coast of Utopia trilogy.

Zimmerman, Judith. 2007. “Tom Stoppard’s Russian Thinkers.” New England
, Summer, 80-94. Zimmerman provides a critical comparison of the historical figures in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia trilogy.