EVERY GOOD BOY DESERVES FAVOUR
Written by Tom Stoppard with music by André Previn
Directed by Trevor Nunn
Ian McKellen in the role of Alexander
Royal Festival Hall, London
1 July 1977
Words from Ian McKellen
EGBDF are the notes of the lines on the treble clef, though its mnemonic Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, being a Tom Stoppard title, is wittily and doubly relevant to his play about a Russian orchestra that gets mixed-up with the fate of an unjustly incarcerated political prisoner. That was my role, based on the real life case of a man who attacked the Soviet government for imprisoning a felow-dissident Vladimir Bukovsky. When Bukovsky slipped into our rehearsals one afternoon in London, the juxtaposition of dramatic fiction and actual fact, rendered me speechless and we abandoned rehearsals for tea.
The play was a luxurious folly, or would have been had it been confined to its single performance at the Royal Festival Hall, with the Royal Shakespeare Company actors and the London Symphony Orchestra. We recorded a version later for BBC TV and there has been many a revival, albeit with smaller bands, in London and elsewhere.
The conductor for the first performance was the composer of the play's incidental music, André Previn. He had been late delivering the score because of an injury, which meant it had been completed while André was flat on his back on a day-bed. Because the Orchestra (a character in the play) does not have a conductor in charge, Andre was again almost prone, out of sight of the audience during performance, crouched and conducting from below stage level.
The play has not been judged one of Stoppard's best but it is the one perhaps closest to his heart, which he wears openly on his sleeve in the passionate irony of the longer speeches. — Ian McKellen, April 2008