The legendary Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg - described by Peter Brook as ‘the finest ensemble theatre in Europe’ - returns to London this spring for a strictly limited engagement for the first time in over a decade.
LIFE AND FATE (UK PREMIÈRE)
“Beautiful, terrifying, draining – and resoundingly contemporary” - Financial Times
It’s early 1943. Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia are in a bitter struggle for their very survival. Life and Fate is a sweeping panorama of Soviet Society, an epic tale of a country told through the fate of a single Jewish family, the Shtrums.
Vasily Grossman’s celebrated novel, banned because of the parallels it drew between Nazism and Soviet Communism, is being adapted for the stage for the very first time. From Nazi concentration camps to the Gulags of Siberia and the Soviet nuclear programme, the battle of Stalingrad looms large as the characters work out their destinies in a world torn by ideological tyranny and war.
This critically acclaimed production, winner of the Golden Mask for best play, has toured around the world to great acclaim since 2007 and comes to London for the first time.
*Both productions will be performed in Russian with English surtitles*
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "Sergey Kuryshev shines as a nuclear scientist stuck in a moral maze in this vivid staging of Vasily Grossman’s sprawling novel" - The Guardian
★ ★ ★ ★ "A wearying first half paves the way for a complex and vivid display by an extraordinary ensemble" - The Times
★ ★ ★ ★ - The Telegraph
An excellent production - superb presentation, acting and use of stage. The main threads of the story came through well, a difficult thing to do on stage but all essentials were there and even if one hadn't read the book or remembered all the details, the production allowed the audience to feel part of what was happening on stage and in a very lively and moving way. Congratulations.
Very clever and unusual staging with just one set used for multiple scenes, some overlapping. A very good distillation of the themes of the original Life and Fate novel. Fine acting, which shone through, even though the script had to be read in surtitles. Overall, excellent theatrical experience.
A faithful adaptation of the novel performed by an extraordinary cast in an imaginative production
the most wonderful show
This was an amazing play. I went with very little prior knowledge of the author and no experience of listening to a play in Russian but none of that mattered. I was spellbound. The attention to detail with the set and the expressive voices and the closeness of understanding between the Maly actors was captivating. We are lucky that they made this trip to London.
Wonderful performers, staging, tempo, set But I wish the Maly Theatre had chosen another novel to dramatise. It is well-worn history and not much gained by theatricalising it Unlike Uncle Vanya which was brilliant through and through
A really excellent production - extremely moving and brilliantly acted. So many aspects of the novel and the historical aspects it reflects were captured very effectively.
Dodin and the company created something quite their own out of Grossman's novel. It was bold and brave and magisterial, gloriously acted and unforgettable.
A superb theatrical experience
Very long and quite heavy going. Thought provoking and a history lesson. The acoustics were not great and they seemed to be relying on the subtitles helping the audience. The props, notably the newspapers, were so noisy!
Superbly and tightly condensed; surtitles soon become absorbed into the performance. Challenging and cathartic, but still an enjoyable experience.
I attended on Saturday evening 12 May when the performance received a standing ovation and more than one encore. The diction was clear and the acting plausible. This is the first time I've encountered device of splitting the stage area via a permeable barrier whilst allowing movement from one area to another offering fluidity. Effective. My reservation is about the text. The main thrust of the novel is about the comparability of Bolshevism and Nazism. Whilst antisemitism is a major topic in the novel I thought the play focused on this aspect disproportionately.
At a level of the great Russian tradition. Thoughtful, realistic, with understanding of the human condition, strength and of course, weakness. 'There's eating and drinking here'
A complex tale adapted for the stage. Difficult to follow the range of characters and different timelines even with the aid of surtitles. When the surtitles went on the blink in the second half the whole experience was totally incomprehensible.
Could have been better if not for the horrible set up and the venue. Translation/subtitles were not properly cued up or extensive enough. Many important sentences were missed or very poorly translated. Was also the missing direction of the conversation. You are mostly left guessing who said what to whom, as it is almost impossible to follow the stage actions while reading the subtitles on the various screens.
A very moving and interesting adaptation of the book. However, we found the positioning of the subtitles on the sides of stage very frustrating. It meant that it was very difficult to both watch the action on the stage and follow the dialogue at the same time. Sometimes we couldn’t identify which character was speaking, so this lead to confusion. Perhaps placing the subtitles centrally, as they do at the Opera Houses would make it easier to both see the actors and follow the text simultaneously.
First of all let me say the play was an immense pleasure in so many ways. Having recently read the book, I was intrigued by two things: How are they going to condense the book, which was a 900pg sweeping account of the Battle of Stalingrad which single-handedly changed the course of the war, and how were they going to take all the different plot lines and geo-political issues associated with class, culture, deprivation and survival and synthesize that in 3hrs and 20mins? The austere set design and the comings and goings of characters and plot lines within the same set design was a challenge. How anyone could see this play, not having read the book, and make complete sense out of it I think is a challenge, but one met fairly head-on by this production. Secondly, the play is in Russian. That, in and of itself, is not a problem and lent authenticity to the play; however one has to be prepared to read for that length of time. The acting performances were extraordinary with Viktor’s mom, Anna, the much acclaimed Tatiana Shestakova, nearly stealing the show. A mother’s grief so convincingly portrayed captured something truly eternal; a common thread running through the play replete with characters trying to live authentic lives and in many ways searching for redemption. Lev Dodin, the playwright, had his work cut out for him, needing to decide what scenes to include, but more importantly, what scenes to leave out from the book. These must have been agonizing choices indeed. But overall, my hat is off to him for capturing the flavour of the book and the intent of its author. Fascinating production very much worth seeing...
A good and moving production and a successful dramatisation of the prose work
This is one of the 20th century’s “must reads” novels. Very privileged to see here in London The Maly theatre of Europe bringing V. Grossman Life and fate by the legendary director Lev Dodin. We should remember and re-read history especially now, when societies are living in the age of post truth and relativism. I had tears and a lump in the throat at the end...
Adapting large baggy monsters (864 pages in translation) for the stage is a tricky business - Lev Dodin has distilled the essences for this dramatic version that plays both to the original and to our own times. I did wonder how viewers not familiar with the original would cope and unravel the multiple themes and five settings skilfully blended to segue from scene to scene. I asked the couple in next to me, who had not read the book, how they were enjoying it? - 'gripping'. Tatiana Shestakova's deep understanding, emotional grip and radiant purity as Anna Shtrum delivers a performance of carefully increasing intensity that choked me up; her son played by Sergey Kuryshev rides the roller coaster of political whim with bravery and humanity. The surprise for me was Sergey Vlasov - the tank commander - manifesting a roundness and sympathy that I'd not appreciated in the book. Singling out a few performances should not mislead - this is performance in depth by every member of the cast - and it's not sold out!? Come on you lazy Londoners get yourselves down there - then read the book - this is the very best introduction you'll ever see!
A powerful and moving experience, Beautifully and simply presented.
This was a massive disappointment. I have read the novel and love it. Despite this I did not have the faintest idea who was who, or what was going on. It is a basic rule in theatre that an audience knows who and what is going on because the can see and feel the relationships between the characters. I saw no relationships in this production so a great novel was dramatised into an inarticulate mess. Yes I know they all improvised for six months, and there were some good actors on that stage, but their efforts were wasted because they did not create a piece of theatre, just a transcription of passages and dialogue from the novel. This show needed a real playwright, and it never works when the writer is the director - someone has to be in rehearsals who is aware of what the audience needs: this time they were so deep inside the source material they could not do that. So I, as audience, was excluded. I left at the interval.
Amazing adaptation of Life and Fate bought about on a single set.Unfortunately during our performance on wednesday evening the subtitles failed at least half an hour before the end of the performance ......not understanding a word of Russian was very sorry to miss out totally on the Mother's final monologue.
Life and fate was staged under the influence of Bertold Brecht and Ariane Mnouchkine. It was intricate but not difficult to follow. The story was harrowing of course but the production never fell into melodrama; the tragic was more present for being understated. Extrordinary original and well worth seeing in Russian. The subtitles were very clear to read and understand; Bravo a thousand times. F. Moore
It was very disappointing to see such a poor production. It didn't give justice to one of the best novels of the 20th century. Inarticulate acting, bleak scenery, lack of energy, unimaginative direction full of cliches and vulgarity. Boring and extremely confusing even to those who were well familiar with the original text.
When I first read Grossman’s book, I concluded that the separate (all absorbing) stories allowed him to write expansively. I was intrigued as to how it would be covered in stage - and was thoroughly absorbed. It was funny, moving, insightful and expressive. There are many scenes I’d like to mention (eg Stalin’s call) but the one I wanted to pick out was the speech by the Gestapo officer Liss which platted the oppression of Nazism and Soviet Communism so well together . The subtitles failed in the last quarter of the play, but stick with it - you’ll find you understand much more than you assumed!!
This is a swirling summary of a long novel. It is well done, but it’s greatest merit to as a reminder of the depths of totalitarianism reached in the 20th century, and the mass destruction of human life. Sadly such wholesale destruction is still with us. We watched this play from our safe bourgeois perch in London’s west end!
Grossman bears witness to the horrors of this time, demonstrating the courage to live through them and then even greater courage to write about them. This is a fast-paced production, telling a complex story, but without losing clarity or coherence. The acting and stage management are masterly; the use of music magical and moving. Why has it taken 11 years to reach the London stage?
Haymarket. SW1Y 4HT.
No exchanges or refunds available after purchase.
200 mins with interva
How Does It Work
You will receive a confirmation email. Please print this email and bring it with you and present to the Box Office. We recommend you arrive a minimum of 30 minutes before the show.
Suitable For Children
Life & Fate contains nudity
When Can I Go
Life and Fate
Tuesday 8th May 7pm
Wednesday 9th May 7pm
Friday 11th May 7pm
Saturday 12th May 7pm
Friday 18th May 7pm
Saturday 19th May 7pm
Sunday 20th May 2.30pm
Where Do I Go
Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, London SW1Y 4HT.
By Tube: Piccadilly Circus; Leicester Square or Charing Cross Tube Station