The Master and Margarita at the Barbican
I don't usually listen to Night Waves but may tune in to tonight's programme. I would like to have gone to the Barbican production but can't really justify another trip to London having gone there last month. I'd be interested in the opinions of anyone who has seen this production. I greatly admire Bulgakov's novels (am haltingly reading some of his short stories in the original at present), but this must be an extremely difficult work to stage.
We went to this marvellous production last Friday. It was unlike any other theatrical evening we have experienced, constantly riveting in its imaginative and technical presentation. Bizarre certainly and brilliantly choreographed.
I did hear the NW programme (the review of M&M was shunted in as the last item almost as an afterthought, reminding me just why I hate to listen to NW ) and the reviewer suggested that the production had taken a pretty free interpretation of the book, especially in the first part - perhaps this is the only way in which to stage this work. He too was very impressed with the imaginative approach. It's a pity it isn't touring in the UK or being broadcast to cinemas.
This was pure theatrical transubstantiation. Hats off to Simon McBurney and the Complicité troupe, for pulling off what will probably be remembered as the theatrical triumph of the year, a tour de force of stagecraft, superb acting and technical wizardry, achieving what M&M aficionados would consider the impossible feat of dramatising this mad, coruscating, multi-layered book.
Originally Posted by aeolium
The night we went the Barbican Theatre was packed with Bulgakov buffs, many of whom must have believed, including McBurney himself if press accounts of his pre-rehearsal musings were accurate, that the evening could only ever be a pale simulacrum of their treasured novel, and that he’d set himself an insuperably difficult challenge.
For those who have yet to read it, M&M itself is impossible to categorise, being part magic realist Soviet satire, part 20th cent. re-invention of the Faust legend, part theological meditation, and at its heart a Muscovite love-story. The magical elements of the ballroom in Hell, Margarita’s flights, the devilish antics of Behemoth and Koroviev, the gruesome realism of Yeshua Ha Notsri’s crucifixion and the decapitation of the unlucky Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz were rendered with beautifully economical but visually arresting video projections from onstage cameras. Incredibly, very little of the novel was left out. Beforehand, I’d wondered how they’d deal with the aerial gun-battle between Behemoth and the detectives, but this, along with some entertaining but peripheral sub-plots revolving around Woland’s diabolical possession of flat 302B Sadovaya St, were excised. Something had to go, of course.
Performances were exemplary, but for me the stand-out of the whole evening was Paul Rhys’s moving portrayal of the Master, adding an extra dimension of humanity and vulnerability to the character, and in the process delivering an object lesson in the transcending power of live theatre. Let's hope they'll re-stage it elsewhere in the UK.
Nice review, Maclintick. Many thanks! I think the nearest I'll get to it is reading the novel. Which may not be a bad idea ...
(A 90p copy ordered )
Yes, thanks Maclintick: I hadn't realized that this was a Complicité production - always a superb evening's theatre! The very memory of The Street of Crocodiles brings me to tears, twenty tears on! The company occasionally come to the West Yorkshire Playhouse, so fingers crossed that this is one they'll bring.
Originally Posted by Maclintick
You're very welcome. I should have added that the show wasn’t devoid of musical interest, either. Shostakovich fans in the audience will have been intrigued by the interweaving of passages from the 10th symphony and 8th quartet to deepen the mood on stage, most memorably the sounding of the ”Elmira” horn motif from the slow movement of the symphony to accompany Margarita’s clicking heels on the pavement as she arrives for her trysts with the Master.
Originally Posted by ferneyhoughgeliebte
McBurney here cleverly draws our attention to the parallels between novelist and composer, Shostakovich and Bulgakov being near-contemporaries who both suffered from the potentially lethal attentions of Stalin: the cat & mouse games between dictator and novelist recently re-imagined in John Hodge’s “Collaborators”, soon to be revived at the National. Shostakovich, an undoubted Master of the musical sphere, may in his teacher-pupil relationship with Elmira Nazirova have found something of a real-life Margarita, although it seems his obsession was one-sided. Another interesting facet of this thought-provoking Complicite production.