by Alexander Pushkin adapted by Howard Colyer.
Brockley Jack Studio 410 Brockley Road SE4 2JH To 31 January 2015.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0333 666 3366.
Review: William Russell 15 January.
An epic tale about a tyrant and a false pretender.
Pushkin’s blank verse play is a massive affair consisting of some 25 scenes with 27 speaking parts and a horde of soldiers, peasants, and monks as walk-on parts. Written in 1825, it was not published until 1831 and the first performance did not take place in Russia until 1866 – for very good reasons. It dealt with what happened after Boris Godunov, whose claim to the throne was dicey to say the least, succeeded Fyodor, son of Ivan the Terrible, as Tsar and the murder in distinctly suspect circumstances of Ivan’s other son Dimitry.
The Romanovs, who ruled Russia, did not want plays like that about civil war, false pretenders and threats to the monarchy to be performed. The 1825 version of what is held to be Pushkin’s greatest play, translated by Adrian Mitchell, was first staged in Britain in 2012 by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Howard Colyer, the Jack Studio’s writer in residence, has come up with a new translation, gutting the play mercilessly but to great effect, while the staging by Scott Le Crass and Sean Turner manages to create the necessary epic sweep the story demands.
David Bromley makes a splendid tormented Godunov, a Tsar well aware his claim to the throne is slender to say the least. Thomas Winsor is impressive as the false Dimitry, actually a young runaway monk, who has persuaded the Poles to accept that the real Dimitry did not die and support his bid to seize the throne. And there is a powerful performance by Brendan O’Rourke as Shuisky, the courtier who gets to narrate chunks of the plot.
Le Crass and Turner have secured good performances from the 12-strong cast and also ensured that the necessary doubling of parts, the quadrupling in some instances, is never confusing while the set by Justin Williams, consisting of a map of Mother Russia covering the floor and the rear wall of the acting area, allows the actors room to breathe.
In the end the play is the thing, however, and Colyer has written a taut, exciting miniature epic.
Boris Godunov: David Bromley.
Feodor/1st Border Guard/Wisniowiecki/Messenger: Robbie Curran.
Misail/ Kurbsky/Pushkin/3rd man: Robert Hazle.
Vorotynsky/Varlam/Officer/1st Soldier: Callum King.
Ksenia/2nd Courtier/Lady: Louise McMenemy.
Shuisky: Brendan O’Rourke.
Father Pimen/Mniszech/Guard: Bernard O’Sullivan.
Jesuit/Basmanov/3rd Soldier/2nd Man: Jonathan Parsonage.
Marina/1st Woman/1st Courtier: Josephine Rattigan.
Nikolka/Nurse: Judy Tcherniak.
Patriarch/2nd Border Guard/Rozhnov: Paul Trussell.
Grigory/Grigory-Dimitry: Thomas Winsor.
Mother Abbot/3rd Courtier: Felicity Walsh.
Directors: Scott Le Crass, Sean Turner.
Lighting: Jai Morjaria.
Sound: Kirsty Wilde.
Projection/Scenic Art: Justin Williams.
Assistant director, Kathleen Douglas.