We went to see the legendary Russian theatre company, “Sovremennik”, at the Piccadilly Theatre in London on Saturday. The play performed was “Three Comrades” by Erich Maria Remarque, which was based on one of my favourite books.
When I was a young Muscovite, I only managed to see a Sovremennik play once, the demand for tickets was that great. It was Shakespeare’s “The Twelfth Night”, directed by Englishman Peter James, with such stage giants like Oleg Tabakov and Konstantin Raikin (yes, I was so lucky to watch these guys on stage) in great form. No wonder I was so excited by the prospect of seeing this amazing troupe perform in London.
The positives first: the sets were great, and the lighting and sound effects second to none. As for the rest…
The rest reminded me why I never liked drama theatre when I lived in Russia. The acting seemed borderline amateurish; the closest parallel I would use, a bit like Christmas pantomime, with pauses before the lines which were intended as jokes. It wasn’t actually clear why there should be so many attempts at jokes, as the subject of the book is a tragedy of the “lost generation” in Germany, those who fought in the First World War and lived through depression and the beginning of fascism. The lead actor – Alexander Khovansky – might be an ‘Honoured Artist of the Russian Federation’ – but he didn’t convince and his diction was … well, terrible. Worse, the script bore very little resemblance to the book. To my great disappointment, the famous paragraph “To fight, fight – this was the only thing that remained in this cesspit…” didn’t even get a mention.
The subtitles could have been better too (the play was performed in Russian with the English translation shown on boards a little akin to this seen in railway stations). And last, but not the least, were the uncomfortable seats – three hours sitting in small hard chairs with limited leg room was not fun. To be truthful, it was all a little underwhelming. Never mind.