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Friday, 11 May 2018

Don't employ me as a theatre critic

I like going to the theatre. My friend likes going to the theatre. In fact it's not far from the truth to say that people like us keep the West End wealthy - we don't mind paying silly prices to see the best. Eh, that's not bad as a strap line. Anyway we went to the theatre on Wednesday to see an adaptation of Vasily Grossman’s celebrated novel performed by the "the legendary Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg - described by Peter Brook as ‘the finest ensemble theatre in Europe’. It was in Russian with surtitles.

The play got rave reviews:
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ "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

We left after the first act. We found it boring, not really a play with much too much posturing and declamation. Maybe we should have stayed since the Times, whilst agreeing that the first half was a pain, says it picked up speed later on. But it was three and half hours long. At my age I can't take the gamble.

Maybe we should have read up on Grossman and his novel and why the "legendary Maly Drama Theatre of St Petersburg" was so...well. legendary. Rather like a piece of tough steak had we been tenderised beforehand the whole thing might have been more palatable.

I must point out I don't make a habit of walking out - at the prices charged - it's too dear. No, maybe I was having an off day as was my fellow quitter, or maybe I hadn't noticed the KGB scrutinising the affluent audience in the stalls. If I had maybe I'd have stayed - anyway we left. Disappointed but relieved and we headed our separate ways home.

My journey was eventful. At Russell Square our tube train stopped permanently. First it was because ofa passenger incident, which became a points failure and turned into a major incident. Klaxon bellowed and the controller screamed -"evacuate the station: evacuate the station". This went on for ages - reminding me of the play we'd just escaped from. The whole train - which at around 9 pm was full - flooded onto the platform and headed for the exit. Russell Square has no escalators just lifts and because it was an emergency the lifts were shut down. We all had to climb the spiral stairs  to get to street level.

Pissed off passengers forced marched up a lot of stairs - so many similarities to the play - is not something to be in the centre of. At last we reached the top - God knows what happened to anyone unable to climb the stairs  - and headed out into the unsuspecting streets of London. A ten minute walk to King's Cross on the Victoria Line and by 10 pm I was home knocking back a glass or two of wine.

I reckon the KGB saw us leave, sent a message to the Kremlin who hacked into TfL and buggered up our journey home.

We're seeing Uncle Vanya at the same theatre with the same crowd next week. I hope it's better - otherwise if we leave Putin will shut down all of London...Really!

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