Epic Russian opera detailing the horrors of WWI, staged at the Edinburgh International Festival
This article is from 2014.
A multi-lingual co-production from the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, this grandiose imagining of the futility of war, specifically World War One, is likely to leave audiences somewhat shell-shocked; loud, bombastic and brutal, it’s short on poetry and long on imagined brutality.
Director Vladimir Pankov introduces his bohemian ensemble in the heady days of Christmas 1913; a holiday spent speculating on the nature of the conflict to come. None of those involved imagine the years of amputated limbs, rape, poisoned gas and general cruelty to come; instead they reflect on the poetry of Homer, and are seduced by the shiny armour of the military. Pankov spares the audiences nothing; sudden dramatic silences, gunshots, a mangled version of Amazing Grace, all contribute to presenting a picaresque sound-journey to the front, then home, and back to the front again.
Such bombast is appropriate to the subject; rows of great-coats periodically drop down on wires to remind us that The War is not the tragedy of one man, but of millions, and despite some clumsy and confusing super-titling, Pankov’s production hammers that point home stridently.
Kings Theatre, 529 6000, run ended, £12–£32.