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On from 21 Jun 2017 till 24 Jun 2017
Network Theatre
by John Hodge
Genre(s): Drama, Comedy

Tickets: £12 - £15 - Tickets £12 in advance; £15 on the door

About: Collaborators

Moscow, 1938. A dangerous place to have a sense of humour; even more so a sense of freedom.

Mikhail Bulgakov, living among dissidents, stalked by secret police, has both. And then he’s offered a poisoned chalice: a commission to write a play about Stalin to celebrate his sixtieth birthday.

Inspired by historical fact, Collaborators embarks on a surreal journey into the fevered imagination of the writer as he loses himself in a macabre and disturbingly funny relationship with the omnipotent subject of his drama.

"Killing my enemies is easy. The challenge is to change the way they think, to control their minds. It's man versus monster, Mikhail. And the monster always wins."

John Hodge's play depicts a lethal game of cat and mouse through which the appalling compromises and humiliations inflicted on any artist by those with power are held up to scrutiny.


"Strong performance of timeless tragicomedy" by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 22/06/17 – Four Stars

Collaborators, by John Hodge, and by directed John Irvine for Network Theatre, examines the fine line between survival and collaboration. Starving and terminally ill, the writer Mikhail Bulgakov (Gilead Amit) is presented with an ultimatum from the secret policy: write a play in honour of Stalin’s (Alan Maddrell) sixtieth birthday, or see his work permanently banned from the stage. Desperate, Bulgakov agrees, but is consumed with writer’s block, until a midnight meeting with a certain person allows the writing to commence. However, even as Bulgakov starts being showered with gifts and priviliges, he finds that he starts to become complicit in the abuses and war crimes of the regime.

Network Theatre’s production incorporates a large cast of fourteen, with many strong performances including Lauren Edwards’ Yelena Bulgakova, Nick Stafford’s secret policeman-turned-director Vladimir and Alain English’s turn as a lecherous Doctor. However, the play is driven by the relationship between Amit’s Bulgakov and Alan Maddrell as the Soviet tyrant. Amit gives a moving performance of the writer as an honourable and well-meaning man who ends up drawn into a moral nightmare. Maddrell’s decision to play Stalin as an overenthusiastic child, jumping around with glee at the chance to be portrayed by his favourite writer, paradoxically makes the dictator’s behaviour even more chilling.

John Irvine uses set design and choreography to bring out the increasingly surreal nature of the play. Those concerned that a play about 1930s Russia would be too cerebral should be reassured that “Collaborators” is a timeless tragicomedy. As an added bonus, Network’s Theatre cavernous location underneath Waterloo Station makes it one of the coolest places at the moment.

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