Camden New Journal
Publications by New Journal Enterprises
  Home Archive Competition Jobs Tickets Accommodation Dating Contact us
Published: 14 June 2007
A very Russian revival

National Theatre

THE Russians are back on the stage of the National Theatre – not Chekhov’s landowners, floundering and watching the end of feudalism, or even Tom Stoppard’s disputatious exiles On the Coast of Utopia.
Philistines presents Russia on the eve of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Maxime Gorky’s first play opened in St Petersburg in 1902 with the Moscow Arts Theatre on Tour. It was a night to remember. Inside, anxious, aggressive members of the dying Establishment; outside, mounted riot police.
Soon physical uproar broke out. Stanislavksi – the father of method acting – directed defiantly.
Gorky’s unremitting observations are not a vision of Russia through rose-coloured spectacles.
Pytor (Rory Kinnear) has been barred from the university for attending a “revolutionary demonstration”. Kinnear captures the desperation of this type, whose biting tongue covers bleak resignation and increasing inadequacy. This is an actor developing at a splendid rate. Pytor’s sister, Tanya (Ruth Wilson), yearns for Nile (Mark Bonder), an adopted member of this dysfunctional family. But his eyes are on the servant girl Polya. She botches her suicide by drinking ammonia, and flies to numbing depression, a character that could have slipped into the Russian cliché of the long, dark night of the soul. But Wilson travels a beyond sexual frustration.
Within this gallery there are memorable performances. Conleth Hill plays a lodger given to philosophy. The conviction he brings to the character is another example of the quality brought to this “old play”. Vasili is constantly trying to get on top of the turmoil in this “house of multiple occupancy”. It is packed with tenants for rent – but he still remains bewildered by his children. Howard Davies may not be Warren Mitchell’s Alf Garnett, but his attempts to exercise patriarchal authority in harsh rasping tones cuts to the quick of this absorbing evening. His household argues over everything – no domestic harmony here.
Andrew Upton’s version picks up the claustrophobia that Gorky paces in. As well as that, Davis moves it all forward to the momentous events of 1917. Designer Bunny Charteris parcels up the action. Within it is a timebomb. The action is so naturalistic that even the samovar,. Gorky, confident of Lenin, and an early sceptic of Stalin, would have enjoyed this very satisfactory night – but may have gone home dissatisfied.
After all, there was not even a police car outside to calm us down only an enthusiastic exiting audience.
A real and more realistic vision of Russia on the brink.
Until August 13
020 7452 3000

Comment on this article.
(You must supply your full name and email address for your comment to be published)





Click here to book your hotel
Check Prices, Availability & Book Online
Receive Online Discounts and Instant Confirmation
» A-Z of Theatre
» Local Reviews
» Local Listings
» West End Reviews
» West End Listings
» Theatre Tickets
» Theatre & Hotel Packages


Theatre Music
Arts & Events Attractions