CHILDREN OF THE SUN
by Maxim Gorky new version by Andrew Upton from a literal translation by Clare Barrett.
Lyttelton Theatre Upper Ground South Bank SE1 9PX In rep to 14 July 2013.
7.30 23-25; 30 April-4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 30 May, 7, 8, 10-12, 18-20, 227-29 June, 5, 6, 8, 11-13 July.
2.15pm 24 April, 1, 4, 11, 18 May, 8, 12, 19, 29 June, 6, 13 July.
3pm 5, 12, 19 May, 9, 30 June, 7, 14 July.
Audio-described 28 June 28, 29 June 2.15pm (+ Touch Tour 12.45pm).
Captioned 20 May, 9 June.
Runs: 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS 020 7452 3000.
Review: Carole Woddis 17 April.
More Russian splendour on the South Bank.
Howard Davies has an unerring way with Russian plays. Bulgakov’s The White Guard, Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun and Gorky’s first play, Philistines have all been outstandingly resurrected by him on the South Bank.
Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun, written in 1905, when the writer was in prison for Bolshevik sympathies after government troops fired on demonstrating workers, is no exception. Davies’ production is another terrific, full-blooded ensemble production of a play that anticipated the coming political thunderstorm with extraordinary clarity and a certain apprehension. Its violent final moments are an all too prescient vision of what was to come.
Unlike Anton Chekhov, Gorky’s targets were not indolent land owners but the middle class intelligentsia and their myopic idealism. In Andrew Upton’s ripe new version, lines shoot out
as if they were extensions from Three Sisters or The Cherry Orchard about how wonderful the world will be in a hundred years time. In the mouth of Geoffrey Streatfeild’s scientist, Protasov, chemistry will show the way to a world where poverty, ignorance and superstition will be eradicated.
It’s heady stuff, beautifully staged and delivered by Streatfeild as if a loveable absent-minded professor. But Protasov’s preoccupation in the next experiment is dangerous. Oblivious to the pressures building up around him – his sister’s perilous emotional state, the warnings of Paul Higgins’ dryily ironic but clear-sighted local vet and his heavily ignored wife, Yelena – nemesis becomes inevitable. And terrifying.
In a climax worthy of Henrik Ibsen in its symbolism, it is disease and Protasov’s own experiments that prove the catalyst sparking the over-throw of the established order and culminate in the destruction of Protasov’s home and his own life.
But Gorky also has something scathing and cruelly satirical to say about slavish adherence to a belief system and leader, in the shape of the unfortunate Melaniya, a sort of older version of Three Sisters’ Natasha, the materialistic cuckoo in the nest. Malaniya’s obsession with Protasov is surely as much of warning to those who follow blindly as it to those who fail to see what is before them. Richly satisfying.
Protasov: Geoffrey Streatfeild.
Nanny: Maggie McCarthy.
Roman: Gerard Monaco.
Liza: Emma Lowndes.
Yegor: Matthew Flynn.
Boris: Paul Higgins.
Melaniya: Lucy Black.
Feema: Florence Hall.
Nazar: Paul Hickey.
Misha: Matthew Hickey.
Yelena: Justine Mitchell.
Vageen: Gerald Kyd.
Yakov: Jonathan Harden.
Avdotya: Rhiannon Oliver.
Loosha: Gemma Lawrence.
Doctor: Lucas Hare.
Villagers: Steven Blake, Anna O’Grady, Stephen Wilson, Karren Winchester.
Director: Howard Davies.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Paul Groothius.
Music: Dominic Muldowney.
Digital Art: Emma Pile.
Company voice work: Kate Godfrey.
This production of Children of the Sun opened in the Lyttelton Theatre London 16 April 2013.