Off to the National to see a wonderful adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's The White Guard directed beautifully by Howard Davies. The show is in preview at the moment and opens next week. I think it's bound to get excellent notices.
Set in Kiev, during Russia's post-revolution civil war, a small band of the pro-Tsarist White Guard, supported by German forces, prepare to defend the city in the name of old Russia from advancing Ukrainian nationalists.
The world is moving fast however and the Germans, busy fighting on several fronts, withdraw, leaving the city and the soldiers unprotected. Faced with defeat and farcical internal divisions, they regroup, lie low and wait for the advancing Bolsheviks' to at least deliver them a united country. It's the lesser of two evils.
There are great central performances from Justine Mitchell as Lena Turbin, the rock solid sister, of two of the men, and Conleth Hill as the slippery, but life affirming, aide-de-camp Shervinsky, who, in a scene of great intellectual banter and relentless pursuit, seduces Lena with his smooth song and promises of adventure. Huzzah!!!
There's fine support from Richard Henders and Daniel Flynn as the brothers Turbin, Pip Carter as the ungainly poet Larionovich, Kevin Doyle as Lena's cowardly husband Talberg and Paul Higgins as the volatile Captain Myslaevsky.
The play in true Russian tradition juxtaposes the passions of daily life, the regret, the torment and the desire against the rolling and inevitable force of history. The brilliance is in making the epic trivial and trivial epic. As the Red Army approach, the former royalists salute change and accept that the only thing to rely on is the future. Heroism may be dead but survival is so much better for the soul bringing, as it does, the promise of love, the certainty of companionship and the hope for a brighter day.