Tom Stoppard was born Tomás Straüssler on 3 July 1937 in Zlín, Czechoslovakia. At the age of 29, Stoppard was the youngest dramatist ever to have a play performed at the National Theatre (based at that time at the Old Vic), with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a play that was revived at the NT on its 50th anniversary earlier this year. This launched a career that would see him rise to his position as one of the most acclaimed playwrights of the modern age, with works such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul and The Real Thing.
Stoppard has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, and across countless topics: from metaphysics and quantum mechanics to moral philosophy and moon landings, the pain of adultery and the excitement of love, linguistics and philosophy. He has also written passionately across human rights, censorship and political freedom. It is this extraordinary range of writing and quality of work throughout his literary career that made him a overwhelming choice for the judges.
As chair of the judges Mark Lawson commented, “Stoppard’s work is built on foundations of electrifying dialogue, vivid stage-pictures, literary and historical perception, and roles that allow actors unusual verbal and emotional scope. It is another mark of the literary merit of Tom Stoppard that the judges who met his plays mainly on the page were just as enthusiastic as those who had spent numerous evenings with them in the dark. Two decades after Harold Pinter was an early winner of the David Cohen Prize, the award marks its Silver Jubilee by honouring a second giant of 20th century British drama.”