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By John Hodge

Directed by Nicholas Hytner

National Theatre Live

Cornerhouse, 1 December 2011


He is a distinguished screenwriter, John Hodge, and on this evidence he’s a damn fine playwright as well.

The play touches on the relationship between Stalin (Simon Russell Beale) and Mikhail Bulgakov (Alex Jennings), exploring whether art can ever survive – and if so, in what form – in a totalitarian society.  Surely a true artist can hold firm and not be compromised or corrupted by the imposition of power?

Simon Russell Beale, fresh from his appearance in The Deep Blue Sea, delivered the outstanding performance on the night.  His great dictator is a badly put-upon bureaucrat who is out of his depth, a chancer who’s all at sea.  Then Bulgakov comes to the rescue.

There are many moments of humour to be had, albeit some are quite sinister.  If there is a moral it is that imagination and fantasy are fine assets for artists to have, but with despots they simply add fuel to their inchoate paranoia.  And that is not generally advisable.  Good things don’t usually flow from it.

Collaborators is currently showing at the Cottesloe Theatre in London and it should come to The Lowry in the future, so that’s definitely one to look out for.

There is also a dedicated National Theatre Live site with trailers and productions pics.  Check it out here.

Also, details of future National Theatre Live events at Cornerhouse can be found here.