Tom Stoppard’s trilogy The Coast of Utopia begins with the play Voyage. Stoppard is known for crafting unique work with political and moral overtones, and Voyage is no exception. The play takes place in the Soviet Union during the years 1833 to 1838, and it centers on the Russian revolutionary Michael Bakunin and his aristocratic beginnings. The Bakunin family is embroiled in various love triangles and intrigues, and Michael is quickly becoming the black sheep of the family. He deserts the military and rebels against his wealthy roots, instead preferring to become a philosopher. He spends his time with other like-minded individuals as he flits from one school of thought to another in his quest to find enlightenment. Although Voyage could stand alone, it is clearly meant to set up the characters and ideas that will later be presented in Stoppard’s other two plays in the trilogy. Although there is not a great amount of traditional dramatic action in Voyage, a lot happens over the span of the five years the audience is presented with, and there is certainly a balance between what occurs onstage and the lengthy dialogue in between.
Most interesting about Voyage is its slightly nonlinear approach. The first act is set at Premukhino, the estate of the Bakunin family. The audience is introduced to the eccentric Bakunins and a host of their friends and colleagues. Time passes between each scene, and the family discusses what events have occurred in their world during the lapse in time. The second act essentially fills in the blanks for the audience. We hear about certain events in Act I from a particular character’s perspective and then get to see those events unfold in Act II with no bias.