Tom Stoppard


The article in its most homogeneous form is Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land, straight from Donne to Parliament and Fleet Street. The historical plays include Squaring the Circle (for television) and The Coasts of Utopia, a jibe at European Union in the ęsthesia of Russian Revolution.

Artist Descending a Staircase is between the two, a history of fictional practitioners in the English avant-garde. At the center of the play, they are in France overrun by Germans at the start of World War One. The scenes recede from 1972 to this date, and back again. One of them has just died, the other two suspect each other of his murder.

Lumet’s Bye Bye Braverman is the nearest thing. The late artist had recently undergone a conversion from the idle diversion of their mutual fringe. A Venus de Milo in sugar was his latest creation, edible for the starving. He has learned, by the stratagem of the play, that the blind girl he loved in 1922 loved him. He paints an image from her imagination, a lady with a unicorn among roses. “Post-Pop Pre-Raphaelitism” is the verdict of his studio mates.

The sound of his death was recorded. He is asleep, droning, steps are heard, he says “ah, there you are”, he’s hit and thrown down the stairs, breaking the balustrade.

But really, as one of his fellows neatly demonstrates by inadvertence, almost falling himself, a fly was buzzing in the room, the painter swatted it with his hand and fell through the balustrade.