The great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam was persecuted, sent to Siberia and ultimately died because he wrote a poem making fun of Stalin's mustache. In this darkly funny and moving investigation of his grotesque and terrifying martyrdom, we live through the nightmare with Mandelstam, a quiet, thoughtful man who tried to stay out of trouble but found himself by nature unable to write pap, propaganda, or lies, even in Stalin's repressive nightmare world in which one wrong word could get you killed. Late one night, Mandelstam's friend Boris Pasternak gets a phone call from Stalin asking his advice on what to do about Mandelstam, and thus begins one of the oddest and most utterly bizarre chapters in the history of the long and bloody struggle between art and authority, as Pasternak tries desperately to persuade the homicidal maniac that Mandelstam is harmless and should be spared, all the while knowing that he himself could at any moment be destroyed himself. Pasternak is deeply conflicted, seeing beauty in the revolution and wanting to give Stalin the benefit of the doubt, but Mandelstam can see clearly the folly of imagining that Stalin is anything but a monster. And yet in this play Stalin is a lonely monster with a dark sense of humor and some insight, whose terrifying late night phone calls are bizarre attempts to make at least some form of human contact with people he is about to murder. A failed poet himself, Stalin remains fascinated by people who can create, drawn to them, unable to comprehend them, but understanding well that poets are actually very dangerous people. As Mandelstam disappears into the death camps, and his collected works are systematically gathered up and burned by the government, his wry and courageous wife Nadezhda memorizes every word her husband wrote, and paces back and forth in her tiny apartment, repeating them over and over so they won't be utterly obliterated. Meanwhile, rotting in a dark cell in the middle of nowhere, Mandelstam finds lines from his own poetry carved on the prison walls by an earlier inhabitant, now almost certainly murdered, and understands his strange, dark triumph.
- Mild Adult Themes
- Minimum Fee: £55 per performance plus VAT when applicable.
- Time Period: 1930s
- Duration: 120 minutes (2 hours)
- Additional Features: Not Applicable
- Features / Contains: Period Costumes
- Musical Style: N/A (Not a musical)
- Ensemble cast