Star rating – 6/10
I picked this production for two reasons – firstly the others in the new National season all seemed to be sold out when I could make it, and secondly, to get me in the mood for my impending exciting Russian holiday adventure.
It is the story of a Ukrainian family and friends during the Russian civil war, and adapted here by Andrew Upton from the play by Mikhail Bulgakov. Lena, played by Justine Mitchell, acts as the heartbeat of the domestic scene, and has to endure her beloved brothers preparing to fight for the White Guard, the Tsarist army which is trying to stave off the revolution. They are joined by various friends and hangers on – all united in much vodka consumption and singing before they head off to the conflict.
The various factions and sides in the battle are a little difficult to keep track of in the play, as I imagine they also were at the time. There are lovely humorous moments in the action, particularly by the student Larion (Pip Carter), who just seems to turn up there for no real reason. The cast are all great actually, and churlish though it is to pick out favourites, mine was Paul Higgins as Viktor, (nothing to do with my near obsess ional love for ‘The Thick Of It’ you understand) who turns up with frostbite from the army and leads the singing, not to mention encourages most of the drinking.
The sets are superb – with simply stunning transitions from one act to another before your eyes. The dining room with snow falling outside turns into the scene of conflict in an amazing instant. But I just didn’t really see the point of the piece or what its message is. I couldn’t really engage with the troubles that beset the characters, or care overly about the terrible ending.
Not sure why, so in summary – great sets – great cast – average play.