NCPA's season-long collaboration with the National Theatre of London began in June with Danny Boyle's theatrical adaptation of Frankenstein. The fifth presentation of this alliance will be a screened version of John Hodges' play, The Collaborators. If reviews from British theatre critics are as au courant as they are made out to be, the play promises to be one of the most riveting black comedies to grace the Indian stage in a while.
Alex Jennings (centre) plays Russian author and playwright
Mikhail Bulgakov in The Collaborators. PIC courtesy: Johan Persson
The story is based on the life of Russian author and playwright Mikhail Bulgakov, who lived a life marred by controversies. His plays were often strong statements on the socio-political mechanisms of the erstwhile Soviet Union, dealing with the aftermath of the World War I. In spite of strict censorship, Bulgakov's works were admired by Joseph Stalin. In The Collaborators, John Hodge, celebrated screenwriter of Trainspotting and The Beach, delves into the dichotomous relationship between the two.
Set in Moscow of 1938, the play introduces Bulgakov as a dissident writer being stalked by the secret police. As Stalin's 60th birthday looms, he is commissioned by the Premier to write a play about him. Bulgakov's acceptance of the offer triggers a macabre series of events that are funny and disturbing, as he gradually becomes a pawn in the hands of the omnipotent Stalin.
"Plays like The Collaborators open up new horizons for not just playwrights in India but also for audiences on the possibilities of theatre in general. The play almost feels like a movie," says Deepa Gahlot, head of Programming, NCPA.
The Collaborators features an in-the-round design, a unique set design for a play and is directed by the recently-knighted Nicholas Hytner. It also features theatre behemoths Alex Jennings (The Habit of Art) and Simon Russell Beale (London Assurance) as Bulgakov and Stalin.
National Theatre of London has a tradition of tying up with European theatrical institutions for a live telecast of its plays as they are performed. "However, a similar enterprise would prove futile in India, because of the significant time difference," explains Gahlot. The screening today will therefore be a deferred recording of the play.
At: 7 pm, December 18, Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point