Who ever thought that a Russian novel published in 1966 could be updated into such a hilarious, yet blood-curdling stage production in the University of Nottingham’s very own New Theatre? Directed by Felicity Chilver, The Master and Margarita is a 145 minute roller-coaster production that takes us to the lows of heartbreak and to the highs of carnivalesque comedy, creating a sense of not knowing what you really watched or how to feel, but definitely knowing you enjoyed the ride.
In this version of The Master and Margarita we are taken on a journey through a very strange and surreal Stalinist Russia. Set in Moscow during a time when communism was dominant, the story centres on ‘The Master’ an aspiring playwright who is in the middle of creating what he believes to be his artistic master-piece. Along the way, he meets the beautiful and enchanting Margarita, who encourages his dream and further pushes him to believe that his new work is nothing short of perfection. Things aren’t all as they seem, however, as we discover that Moscow is in fact being paid a visit by the devil himself and, suddenly, The Master and Margarita’s lives become entangled in the insane world of hell and Satan himself.
“The effect of such a stylistic choice was at times simply mind-blowing, the inter-locking scenes creating an atmosphere of inevitability and impending doom”
The level of talent within this production is simply staggering and I could spend hours writing a long list detailing why each actor and actress were great in their own part. But it has to be said, the show was stolen by two actors in particular: Emma Summerton who plays Ivan and Sam Peake who plays Woland (The Devil). These two actors did a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged at all times by turning their dialogue into something that was simply mesmerising. Not to mention how hilarious these two characters were at times, and often they both had the audience in fits of laughter.
Along with this, the stage design and lighting are something to be in awe-of. The action takes place within three main areas: two on-stage and one off-stage. At times there were three scenes happening at once which were choreographed in such a way that it created a sense of a story that has many layers, but none of these layers dominated over another. This style reminded me of the Coen brothers’ use of split screening their action in their popular T.V series Fargo. The effect of such a stylistic choice was at times simply mind-blowing, the inter-locking scenes creating an atmosphere of inevitability and impending doom.
“Overall, The Master and Margarita is simply amazing”
However, although the majority of this performance was slick and polished, there were times when dialogue could not be understood or heard. The second half to this play also seemed to lose some wind and became a lot harder to follow than the first half. However, these things did not take away from the overall performance.
Overall, The Master and Margarita is simply amazing. The whole cast and crew should be proud of what they have managed to achieve with updating a 1966 Russian novel to fit the genre of play that amuses a modern twenty-first century audience. Although at times I literally had no idea what was happening in front of me, I didn’t care as I was too busy laughing. I assure you this is a show you do not want to miss!
‘The Master and Margarita’ is running at New Theatre until Friday 11th December, for more information see here