Posts Tagged ‘Gogol’’

Marriage (Gogol), Brockley Jack 2 July

July 8, 2014


Picture from uktheatrenet

Picture from uktheatrenet

The Brockley Jack have written to announce a special £5 offer for Tuesday 8 July, see here.

That has prompted me to share my views on the performance I saw.  The Brockley Jack are lovely people and the toilets there are quite exceptional, but they do annoy me by putting on plays that they don’t understand (and I do).

This was all far too normal–it might have been a realistic account of a bachelor civil servant trying to find himself a wife, when the whole point of Gogol is that it’s meant to be grotesque, more specifically a diseased self trying to avoid collapse in encountering the outside world and throwing off endless sparkling fantasies in the process.  The picture on the FB page with the offer on shows that somebody may have understood something of this, but it certainly didn’t appear in the production.  There for instance we started off with Podkolyosin reading in the paper the plot of Gogol’s story The Nose, which at least gave me a surprise but destroyed the contrast between his paranoid fantasies that everyone would know he was looking for a wife and the servant Stepan’s no-nonsense resentful gruffness.  Or the matchmaker Fyokla was here played as a kind of health visitor, complete with capacious handbag, when something overdressed and overdone in the manner of a pantomime dame is required.  Or then Podkolyosin himself was far too young, good-looking, and, well, marriageable while the intended bride Agaf’ya was a kind of Jane Austen heroine (and dressed appropriately), quite naturally agitated at having to choose a husband, when she should be both stupid and a threat–Gogol was really, really  frightened of women…

The lovely extended joke about them speaking French on Sicily–because everything outside the self is uniformly and undifferentiatedly a threat to the self–went begging because we never got a sample of the French:

..try and say to him ‘Give me some bread, brother’,–he won’t understand, really he won’t understand; but say in French ‘Dateci del pane’ or ‘portate vino!’–he’ll understand,…

You don’t want to make these things too sensible–Sicily was after all ruled by the French for long enough and they might speak French there.

See here for  what I know about other Russian plays in London.


Government Inspector Young Vic 16 June

June 16, 2011


Picture from

There were two main things this production lacked for me.  It was  an opera–in fact, an archetypal ENO staging–without music or without enough music anyway.  It was also  Gogol’ without the  tacky vulgarity raised to the status of existential horror (poshlost’ in a word), and that poshlost’ spread thinly over a vacuum that threatens to consume all at any moment.  What you see in the picture above is not poshlost’ but normal healthy bad taste that any right-thinking person would wish to see in his home.

What we got instead was whacked over the head with bits of funny business: NOW laugh, NOW laugh, NOW laugh…Julian Barratt as the Mayor did a very good impression of a former boss of mine, but both he and Kyle Soller as Khlestyakov were really too straightforward and…err…normal.  This could be a another case of ‘What do I expect if I go to something I know too much about?’ since in my time I’ve both played the Mayor in this piece and been mistaken for an important visitor in the Russian provinces.

Yes I remember now–the Mayor here made no attempt to approach the required level of slavish Oriental abasement.

I would have been quite interested to see how they did the dumb scene at the end, but I was so bored I’d started trying to read the back of my programme-cum-playscript.  [Gets out p-cum-s.]  Well, it’s not a dumb scene in the script here!  A very good job I went home to do my cleaning…

Wedding (Gogol’) in Russian at QMUL 24/25 March

March 24, 2011

We have received an email this morning to say that QMUL will be doing ‘The Wedding’ this evening and tomorrow evening.  Details are as on the poster above: 7pm, 24 & 25 March, The Arts Lecture Theatre, Arts Building, QMUL, Mile End Road E1.  Talk about just in time!

The Overcoat Brockley Jack 29 November

January 29, 2011


Old and new ‘overcoats’ (from NTV clip)

Before the show began, my companion inspected the programme and announced that a woefully inadequate proportion of the cast had appeared in The Bill and she was not at all pleased with this negligence.  And once it began, I was mystified by the comedy Russian accents.  Russians think that they speak quite normally and fail to realise that they are foreigners.  Perhaps the idea was not to expose the real Russian (Ksenia Zaitseva) who played Alla Ivanovna–but a sensible, sympathetic, flesh-and-blood woman as was portrayed here is so alien a creature in the Gogol universe that a foreign accent would be more than appropriate.

I found that the narrative of Bashmachkin’s story–how his fellow-clerks bullied him for not having a decent overcoat and he denied himself still further–was just undramatic.  The denouement differed from Gogol’s–instead of terrorising the citizens of St Petersburg by snatching the ‘overcoats’ off their backs, here Bashmachkin reappeared looking rather prosperous and recounted the story of Dives and Lazarus to his terrified superior.

A prosperous (albeit dead) Bashmachkin (from NTV again)

That provided an effective dramatic moment, but the beauty, truth and grown-upness of the Gospel text (I speak as a complete atheist) did show the rest of the material up.

There’s an interesting Russian TV clip about the production here.  The reporter mentions the actors being made to speak with dreadful Russian accents and also describes Brockley as ‘one of the poorest parts of London…In just such places Bashmachkins are born’.

Russian Theatre in London 2011

December 26, 2010

That's a good poster...

Note that updates to this posting will now be found here.

Russian plays in Russian

See the posting below about Sovremennik’s visit in January.  You also get the occasional production in Russian at the Shaw Theatre.

Russian plays in English

The Overcoat (Gogol’) Brockley Jack Theatre, 19-29 January; details here; and my reactions here.

Naughty Chekhov (‘The most funniest collection of Chekhov’s farces and comedy sketches’) Lord Stanley Pub NW1, Jan 10 – Feb 6; details here.  I have a feeling a Lord Stanley pub  was a famous gay haunt in the days I worked in HIV/AIDS and knew about such things.  There are more Russian plays promised here, but it’s not clear which and when.

The Seagull (Chekhov) Baron’s Court Theatre 22 Feb – 6 Mar; details here.  ‘…uses a new translation which attempts to be the most accurate ever written.’

Meanwhile, the Arcola have written from their new base at 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston London E8 3DL to say that their new season will include Anna Karenina by Helen Edmundson, adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy (details here); Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov in a new version by Helena Kaut-Howson & Jon Strickland; and  Seagull by Anton Chekhov in a new translation by John Kerr, Joseph Blatchley & Charlotte Pyke.

I am a seagull.  No, that’s not right…I am two seagulls.

Along the same lines (but perhaps more so) ,  one can find various listings for live relays of The Cherry Orchard from the National in June.  They might even announce details of the play itself sometime…

Non-Russian plays in Russian

The Tempest (Shakespeare) Barbican 7-16 April 2011; details here.