The legendary Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg, once described by Peter Brook as ‘the finest ensemble theatre in Europe’, are back in the West End. Here’s why you need to see their brilliant production Life And Fate, before Sunday 20 May.
Apparently the troupe has undergone 3 years of gruelling rehearsals and immersion in the world of Life And Fate, and it really shows in the fluidity and intensity of their performances.
The mid-sized company has some serious stamina, with several of them appearing on-stage for most of the play’s three-and-a-half hour duration. From volleyball games to copious (hopefully fake) vodka drinking, shower scenes and even brass instrument playing, these are some seriously dedicated and talented actors.
Yes, it’s in Russian (with English subtitles), and therefore incomprehensible to most of the audience – but after getting used to the cadences of the language it becomes very beautiful, nuanced and melodic, and really adds to the power of the play.
Life And Fate is a very dialogue-heavy play, adapted by director Lev Dodin from Vasily Grossman’s eponymous novel of 1960. The text has everything, from pathos and agonising emotion to philosophical musings and flashes of humour.
Despite being set in World War II and written nearly 60 years ago, themes of intellectual freedom, political persecution and extremism still resonate today.
The play’s set is fairly minimal and doesn’t really change, but we are constantly transported to different times and places by clever, efficient staging and interweaving of overlapping scenes. This sometimes has a devastatingly poignant effect – for example juxtaposing a love scene with a labour camp role call or booming battle artillery.
A rare jewel
The chance to see an internationally-acclaimed company like the Maly Drama Theatre of Saint Petersburg here in the UK, performing such an incredible Russian epic in its original language, is not something that comes along often! It feels like a very special experience, so go while it’s in town.
Book tickets to Life And Fate here!