INTO THE WHIRLWIND
by Alexander Gelman adapted from Eugenia Ginzburg.
Noel Coward Theatre St Martin’s Lane WC2N 4AU To 22 January 2011.
Runs: 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 482 5140.
Review: Carole Woddis 21 January.
Statuesque, if a bit cumbersome, beauty.
East European theatre has played a major part in influencing theatre in Britain ever since the Berliner Ensemble visited in the 1956.Since then, Russians (especially the Maly, Stary and Georgian theatre companies), Latvians, Poles and East Germans have given British artists a fresh, often physically dynamic, furiously energised slant on theatrical content and style.
Now comes the first visit, thanks to UK-based Russian billionaire and Chelsea FC Chairman, Roman Abramovich, of Moscow-based Sovremennik.. Sovremennik (meaning `Contemporary’) was formed over half a century ago, in the heady days of post-Stalinist days of liberation politically and artistically.
This first of three productions in a short, maybe preliminary, season to test British reactions – they have already taken the US and Europe by storm – brings a seminal account of life during the Stalinist purges to the fore, a story still remarkably rare here.
Tom Stoppard’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour covers similar ground. But Into the Whirlwind couldn’t be more different. For one thing, it is monumental in scale. For another, its account of tortures mental and physical apply uniquely to women.
The story of journalist Eugenia Ginzburg, imprisoned along with many thousands of others as an `enemy of the people’, counter-revolutionary and terrorist, is a withering indictment of the Stalinist regime but one that nonetheless reminds us of the original communist vision as its crowd of imprisoned women, about to be transported from solitary confinements to labour camps, sing a rousing chorus of unity and joy.
The vision is shortlived, however, as giant metal grilles clang shut and our final sight is of these ordinary women – mothers, wives, teachers, imprisoned on the flimisiest of pretexts – appearing like so many Auschwitz concentration camp victims, trapped behind bars.
Shocking in its intensity, the image is as relevant now as ever in terms of how a leader’s crazed paranoia can destroy its own people.
The production, on the road for many years, carries a slightly cumbersome if statuesque beauty. Its power and impact is nonetheless undeniable, generated especially by its remarkable second half ensemble playing.
Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Cherry Orchard follow next week.
Eugenia Ginzburg: Marina Neelova.
with: Lilia Azarkina, Marina Alexandrova, Liya Akhedzhakova, Daria Belousova, Tamara Degtyareva, Nina Doroshina, Olga Drozdova, Marina Feoktistova, Daria Frolova, Valentina Foteeva, Marina Khazova, Tatiana Koretskaya, Elena Kozelkova, Elena Kozina, Liudmila Krylova, Eugenia Kuznetsova, Ulyana Lapteva, Taisa Mikholap, Elena Millioti, Elena Plaksina, Alla Pokrovskaya, Polina Rashkina, Viktoria Romanenko, Lanina Romanova, Maria Selyanskaya, Maria Sitko, Inna Timofeeva, Andrey Averyanov, Alexandr Berda, Georgy Bogadist, Ilya Drevnov, Vladislav Fedchenko, Gennady Frolov, Sergey Girin, Krill Mazharov, Vasily Mishchenko, Rashid Nezametdinov, Evgeny Pavlov, Maxim Razuvaev, Victor Tulchinskiy, Vladislav Vetrov, Sergey Yushkevich, Vladimir Zemlyankin.
Director: Galina Volchek.
Designer: Mikhail Frenkel.