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Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is a stage play by Tom Stoppard. It was first performed in 1977.

The title derives from the popular mnemonic used by music students to remember the notes on the lines of the treble clef.

The play was written at the request of André Previn and was inspired by a meeting with Russian exile Viktor Fainberg and based in part at least on the experiences of another Soviet dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky.

The cast comprises six actors, but also a full orchestra, which not only provides music throughout the play (composed by Previn) but also forms an essential part of the action.


The play concerns a dissident, Alexander Ivanov, who is imprisoned in a Soviet mental hospital, from which he will not be released until he admits that his statements against the government were caused by a (non-existent) mental disorder.

In the hospital he shares a cell with a genuinely disturbed schizophrenic, also called Ivanov, who believes himself to have a symphony orchestra under his command. Alexander receives visits from the Doctor and from a Colonel in the KGB.

Meanwhile, his son, Sacha, is seen in a school classroom with a teacher who attempts to convince him of the genuineness of his father's illness.

Production History

Because of the difficulties in staging a play that requires a full orchestra in addition to the cast of actors, the play is rarely performed.

Its 1977 premiere was staged at the Royal Festival Hall in London as part of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. That performance featured Ian McKellen (Alexander), John Wood (Ivanov) and Patrick Stewart (the Doctor), as well as the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Previn.

In 1978 the play was produced for television by the BBC. The producer was Mark Shivas and direction was shared by Trevor Nunn and Roger Bamford. The filming was undertaken at a live performance at Wembley Conference Centre in April 1978, conducted by Previn. The cast for this production was Ian McKellen (Alexander Ivanov), Ben Kingsley (Ivanov), Frank Windsor (the Doctor), John Woodvine (the Colonel), Barbara Leigh Hunt (the Teacher) and James Harris(aka Jim Harris) and James Pickering, (Sacha).

Following its BBC production, the play ran at the Mermaid Theatre in London during the summer and autumn of 1978. Cast changes included John Carlisle taking on the role of the Colonel from John Woodvine, who played Alexander Ivanov, Ian McDiarmid (Ivanov), Rowena Cooper (the Teacher) and Rhys McConochie (the Doctor). The role of Sacha was played by a number of young actors including Harris again, and Anthony Robb. Every good Boy Deserves Favour was the last production at the Mermaid before it was demolished and redeveloped.

Patrick Stewart also appeared in a 1992 production (produced by Charles Johanson for the Orange County Symphony) which toured to four US cities. The cast included his Star Trek: The Next Generation colleagues Gates McFadden, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Colm Meaney.

The play was performed in 2002 in Philadelphia as a collaboration between the Wilma Theater and the Philadelphia Orchestra, taking advantage of the fact that Previn had reorchestrated the score for chamber orchestra, making smaller productions possible.

In 2008 it was performed at The Town Hall in New York City by the Boston University College of Fine Arts, directed by Jim Petosa and conducted by Neal Hampton, as part of their Incite Festival. This production was revived (director, Jim Petosa, conducted by William Lumpkin) and played the Boston University Theatre in October, 2009 and then again for two performances at Maryland's Olney Theatre Center in metropolitan Washington, D.C.

In July 2008 The Chautauqua Theater Company[1] at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York state, performed the play in conjunction with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for the 25th Anniversary Gala of the theater company. Directed by Ethan McSweeny with Conductor Timothy Muffitt [2]; Michael Emerson as Alexander and Brian Murray as Ivanov.

London's National Theatre mounted a revival in January 2009, starring Toby Jones and featuring the pioneering orchestra Southbank Sinfonia.



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