The intimate set of the Cottesloe Stage at the National Theatre made Collaborators by John Hodge even more intense. This is Hodge’s first play, he’s best known as a screenwriter for films such as Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach. But here he is with his first foray into theatre, a venture which has already seen him awarded the 2012 Olivier Award for Best New Play.
The play (inspired by real-life events), follows Master and Margarita author Mikhail Bulgakov during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s in Moscow, and his strange relationship with the tyrannical leader, who commissioned Bulgakov to write a propaganda play about his life. It was fabulously acted by Alex Jennings as a disillusioned and manipulated Bulgakov and Simon Beale as a hilarious but ultimately deeply sinister Stalin. Nightmarish scenes turn the set from a cosy apartment into a Soviet prison within seconds; which reminds you of just how quickly life in Soviet Russia turned seriously nasty.
Now into its final month, it’s a clever and gripping play that combines grit and tension with the occasional black comedic moment, and is well worth catching before it ends.
Collaborators runs until the 23rd June 2012 at the National Theatre, London.