Cockroaches (2 stars)

This article is from 2017


As they scuttle across Europe, this classic remains dour

Sosis Productions display a considerable ambition in staging a nearly two-hour long adaptation of a Mikhail Bulgakov script in a morning Fringe slot: unfortunately, a formal, stilted translation and the unfashionable formality of Russian drama makes Cockroaches more of a challenge than a provocation. While the cast provide some powerful moments of tableau, they struggle to inject urgency into long, intense conversations. The pondering on morality, desire, God and exile become increasingly ponderous.

Following the journeys of various anti-Soviet soldiers, a philosophy student and his beloved as they flee the Bolsheviks, Cockroaches features a mentally broken general who is haunted by his atrocities and a star-crossed couple who eventually reconcile. There are few moments of levity in what becomes a series of serious and desperate conversations. The company's respect for the script leads to a traditional staging and an emphasis on clarity of enunciation rather than unearthing deeper emotions. While it echoes Chekhov's investigation of lives under pressure, Bulgakov's scripts lack his lightness of touch and dry humour.

The ensemble is most effective in stillness, embodying the characters with deft glances, trembles or poses, but the dialogue feels wooden and lumbering. This noble attempt to revive an obscure classic sadly fails to ignite.

theSpace on the Mile, until 12 Aug, 10.05am, £9 (£7).


  • 2 stars

Sosis Productions Cockroaches is an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's play Flight, a story of five refugees fleeing the civil war and the Soviet regime in 1920. They search for peace only to find destruction and poverty, the outside world as indifferent to them as Russia is hostile. It is a tale of redemption, of good and…