LIFE AND FATE | London, Theatre Royal Haymarket

The exceptional company of the Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg has finally returned to London, after over a decade, with the U.K. premiere of director Lev Dodin’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Vasily Grossman’s epic 1960 novel. Winner of the Golden Mask for best play, the production has been touring around the world to great acclaim since 2007.

Grossman’s original novel was banned until 1988 because of the parallels it drew between Nazism and Soviet Communism. We see this above all in the depressed, out-of-hours meetings among the Jewish men in prisoner camps, ordered to march and sing. Even in the worst of situations, we hear their guttural hope for a better future.

Meanwhile, Jewish nuclear physicist Viktor Shtrum (Sergey Kuryshev) appears to be in Stalin’s good books, but agonises over signing a letter that would effectively condone the death of Soviet dissidents. On a no-frills, nearly empty stage, scenes overlap across time and space.

It’s three and a half hours of slow paced totalitarian oppression, in Russian (with surtitles), with little visual interest; it’s not for everyone. But the chance to see this award-winning production from one of the most famous theatre companies in the world cannot be missed.

Until 20 May. Stalls tickets £400.

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