facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Boris Godunov

First Published 14 May 2008, Last Updated 14 May 2008

Boris has just been made leader and there are two girls floating around the stage in matching miniskirts looking uncannily like the cheeky girls – it seems politics hasn’t changed that much since the 16th Century. Acclaimed theatre company Cheek By Jowl presents Boris Gudonov, Pushkin’s epic historical play, at the Barbican. Charlotte Marshall was in the first night audience.

As the audience drifts into a theatre thick with incense, onstage six Russian orthodox priests chant in time to the clicking of Pushkin’s typewriter, as he sits writing the story that is about to unfold.

The play begins with the throning of Boris Godunov, the new Czar of Russia. Rumoured to have murdered the rightful descendant, Ivan The Terrible’s youngest son Dmitry, in order to gain power, it is questioned whether he is God’s chosen leader. Seizing this as his chance for a life of grandeur and influence, Grigori Otrepyev, a young monk, runs away from his monastery claiming to be the slain Dmitry having miraculously survived. Desperate to believe in a righteous ruler, Otrepyev, now only referred to as Dmitry, quickly becomes popular with the public and the battle commences for the throne.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s histories, the influence of the playwright’s numerous depictions of power hungry Kings is clearly seen in Boris and the impostor Dmitry. Both are driven by an unscrupulous desire for power and are led into a dark world of deceit and immorality.

This desire comes not without consequence. Boris is plagued by the ghost of the child he killed in order fulfil his dream, who regularly enters the stage with a sinister presence similar to Banqou in Macbeth. Both men also display a painful, internal struggle between right and wrong. Boris, for example, begs God for his blessing so he may become the righteous leader, before lighting a cigarette on the church candles in what seems to be a metaphor for his insincerity. Dmitry refuses to accept the beautiful Marina as his bride unless she agrees to see him just as a man and not the future Czar, before turning on her and manipulating his fiancée into keeping his deception secret.

Set in the round with English surtitles, the play relies on minimal props and dark, simple costumes. Therefore a scene between Dmitry and Marina, dressed in a dramatic white dress, in which the stage opens to reveal a pool they both submerge into, creates one of the most highly charged and powerful scenes in the play.

Boris Godunov is a political drama – relying heavily on dialogue rather than action – that portrays the terrible consequences of the seductive appeal of power, culminating in the ultimate betrayal of the people around you when you eventually make the inevitable fall from grace.

CM

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.