by Mikhail Bulgakov adapted by Howard Colyer.
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre 410 Brockley Road SE4 2DH To 1 February 2014.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS:0844 8700 887.
Review: William Russell 22 January.
Refugees in another time.
Written in 1926, Mikhail Bulgakov’s play was banned by Stalin for years. It was last staged here in 1998 at the National Theatre in a translation by Ron Hutchinson. Howard Colyer, several of whose plays have been performed at the Brockley Jack, has a crisp new version about the trials and tribulations of a group of White Russian refugees and soldiers fleeing through the Ukraine in 1921 to what could be safety in Constantinople.
It taxes the resources of this small theatre to the limit, although director Scott Le Crass uses the space to considerable effect. Performances are sound, with Callum Cameron making perhaps the greatest impact as the wimpish academic Golubkov, a man who knows nothing about politics and not very much about women, who gets involved with Serafina, the beautiful wife of a crooked government minister also heading somewhere unknown.
It is an epic trip as they encounter two White Russian soldiers, the sadistic Khludov, a man who knows what he does is wrong and slipping into madness (a nicely graded performance from Michael Edwards), and the impetuous gambler Charnota ( played to the hilt by Mark Moore).
In the end they escape, as many White Russians did, to Paris where they secure the money needed to save themselves from destitution, although whether it leads to safety for any of them is dubious.
A powerful piece, it really needs a little clearer exposition to set it in the events of the time. As White and Red Russians come and go one does get a little confused, not least because, of necessity, there is a lot of doubling of roles.
There is a splendidly menacing scene when Golubkov is interviewed by the secret police and threatened with having his fingers cut off in order to get him to sign a false confession, but the why and the wherefore is to say the least obscure.
However, it has been well staged, there is an impressive set made up from lots of suitcases and some bits of furniture, and with a little background reading first things would fall perfectly into place.
Tikhii/Commander in chief: David Bromley.
Golubkov/Pickpocket: Callum Cameron.
Abbot/Golovan/French businessman: Declan Cook.
Khludov: Michael Edwards.
Korzukhin/Red Sergeant/Sailor: Piers Hunt.
Bayev/Stationmaster/Yachik/Skunskii/Veteran: Louie Keen.
De Brisard/Gadshubaev/Jean Paul/Red Sergeant/Sailor: Miles Le Versha.
Charnota/Barabanchikova: Marke Moore.
Luska/ Street Seller: Laura Mullholland.
Africanus/Antoine/Street Seller: Christopher Poke.
Serafina/Prostitute: Josephine Rogers.
Narrator/Paisii/Stationmaster’s wife/P.A./Face/Danielle: Nadia Shash.
Director: Scott Le Crass.
Designer: Kemey Lafond.
Lighting: Jack Weir.
Sound: Max Pappenheim.
Fight director: Annie Lee-Jones.
Associate director: Bronagh Lagan.