Tom Stoppard and Andre Previn's 1977 orchestral drama, "Every Good Boy Deserves Favour," is being revived in the National Theatre's Olivier Auditorium, starring Toby Jones and Joseph Millson. Set in Soviet Russia, "EGBDF" "contrasts the circumstances of a political prisoner and a mental patient in a Soviet insane asylum, to question the difference, if any, between free will and the freedom to conform."
The Mail Online admires the score but says "the politics have moved on." The Oxford Times finds the piece less dated: "The violence at the core of the debased political system under scrutiny is graphically revealed in a shocking display of balletic beatings-up among and around the orchestra, during which the players continue to bow and blow with vigour."
Variety says of the 65-minute piece: "the production reveals the piece as more theatrical than dramatic, more a premise than a play." The Financial Times admires the production's ambition, but deems it "a play for yesterday." The Independent is even less enthusiastic.
Nevertheless, Bloomsberg.com finds the play still chillingly relevant. And musicOMH praises it, deeming it "a timely revival of a politically acute and quirkily engaging work."
As it requires the presence of a full orchestra onstage, "EGBDF" is rarely performed, so my advice to any Stoppard fans visiting the West End is that they not pass up the chance to see this production if given the opportunity.
UPDATE: The Sunday Times weighs in, and Liz Hoggard on the Evening Standard sings the praises of short plays that inspire long friendships.