20 March 2010

The White Guard - National Theatre, Wednesday 17th March 2010

 In Kiev during the Russian Civil War, the Turbin household is sanctuary to a ragtag, close-knit crowd presided over by the beautiful Lena. As her brothers prepare to fight for the White Guard, friends charge in from the riotous streets amidst an atmosphere of heady chaos, quaffing vodka, keeling over, declaiming, taking baths, playing guitar, falling in love. But the new regime is poised and in its brutal triumph lies destruction for the Turbins and their world.
Franko- Graham Butler
Hetman- Anthony Calf
Galanba- Peter Campion
Larion- Pip Carter
Uragon - Marcus Cunningham
Talberg - Kevin Doyle
Alexander - Nick Fletcher
Alexei - Daniel Flynn
Kirpaty - Keiran Flynn
Von Shratt -Mark Healy
Nikolai - Richard Henders
Vicktor - Paul Higgins
Leonid Yurevich - Conleth Hill
Bolbotun - Dermot Kerrigan
Von Durst - tuart Martin
Lena - Justine Mitchell
Production credits:
Director- Howard Davies
Designer -Bunny Christie
Lighting Designer- Neil Austin
Sound Designer -Christopher Shutt

I don’t really know whether its fair to review a play when you’re not feeling that well. Its bound to prejudice your view of the situation when half of you feels that you should be concentrating on what is happening on stage and the other half of you is feeling tired and crabby and just wanting to go home and flop into bed. I’m sure under different circumstances I might have enjoyed this, but on this particular occasion I really couldn’t be arsed to concentrate on the plot (which requires a reasonably cogent understanding of the political situation in the closing months of the Russian revolution – the plot itself really isn’t a great deal of help with this as nobody seems to know who is fighting who and when, and alliances and allegiances seem to be fairly fluid things). The fact that the production itself cannot seem to make up its mind whether it is a broad comedy, farce (all that Act 2 is missing is a copy of the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies and it could well be a lost episode of Allo Allo), post-Chekovian social satire (or indeed parody thereof), deep and meaningful Turgenev-esque political tragedy or a strange amalgam of all five, did not help in the slightest. Neither did the fact that many of the characters seemed to be drawn from stock – the soulful sister, the irritating student, the bourgeois husband, the two-faced servant, the soldier forced to confront his unrealistic ideals, The Nice One Who Ends Up Getting Shot. In the end I merely watched the stage and didn’t really feel that I was connecting with any of it. To be frank, even if I’d been on considerably better form that evening, I don’t think that it would have been quite my samovar of tea. Although the production values were high, with some spectacular scenery changes, the play was too unfocussed and unsure of what it was trying to be for me to have enjoyed it. I’d have been happy to have shouted out “oh for crissakes, the Tsar’s dead, get a grip on yourselves” and gone home to bed.

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