The Suicide - November 2003 / April 2004

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The Suicide - November 2003 / April 2004 Empty The Suicide - November 2003 / April 2004

Post  Mike B on Thu Aug 04, 2011 8:24 am

The Suicide, By Nikolai Erdman
Hoghton Village Hall, 22nd-24th April 2004, Hoghton Tower, 27-30th November 2003

Written in 1928, just five years after Stalin's clique took control of the Soviet Union's Communist Party, Nikolai Erdman's play The Suicide is and early example of an art work coming under the increasingly unforgiving gaze of the Stalinist censor. Described by Stalin himself as 'empty and even harmful', the play was banned in 1932, before it had even been performed in public (it was not seen in the Soviet Union until 1982). Following the ban Erdman disappeared, some say exiled to Siberia. In 1938 the theatre of the producer Meyerhold where The Suicide was originally to have been performed was closed down by the authorities, who cited its association with Erdman's play as one of their reasons. Meyerhold himself was arrested and later tortured and killed. Written when Erdman was only 26 years old, this, his second and last play, is clearly the work of a young man bitterly disillusioned with his society.

The play's central character, Semyon Podsekalnikov, is unemployed and dependent on his wife Masha's meagre wage. Unable to get the necessary work permit from the state, Semyon, having lost all self esteem and in constant conflict with his wife and mother-in-law, decides he will kill himself. At this point an apparently personal tragedy is seized upon by assorted elements in Russian society as the opportunity to create an 'ideological corpse', a protest against the powers that be. Semyon's ensuing death is to represent, variously, the anguish of the intelligentsia or of the artists, the interests of business, the cry for freedom of repressed romanticism or of free love. Semyon, crushed by his sense of powerlessness and insignificance, never realised that he had such influence.

Add to the cowardice of the 'upper classes' and the unemployed man's absolute despair, the opportunist profiteering of Semyon's neighbour, Alexander Kalabushkin whose palms have been greased by all concerned in the unseemly scramble to claim the rights to Semyon's 'martyrdom' and Erdman's bleak vision of Russian society is all but complete. That the playwright despaired of a political solution to this social degeneration can be seen in the character of Egor Timovyeyevich, a brainless Stalinist postman, and the only image we get of a political worker.

Despite his despair, however, Erdman created a play which is not entirely pessimistic in its conclusions. Not only is his satire of Stalinism and of the 'chattering classes' extremely funny, not only is The Suicide an often brilliantly paced farce, but within the central character's almost inevitable rejection of 'causes' Semyon actually finds a form of resistance to his oppressive society.

The Suicide is a play which socialists should celebrate. Given the growing political and cultural repression of Stalinism, it was much better that Erdman wrote a sophisticated satire albeit one which reflects his political despondency rather than capitulate, as so many artists did, to the bureaucracy's diktats and prescriptions for art which were to lead to the Stalinist forms known as 'socialist realism'


No photos have yet been submitted - Please pass on your pictures!


Director - Judith Merry Producer - Graham Brindle

Semyon Semyonovich Podsekalnikov - Matthew Seed Maria Lukianovna - Fiona Wignall Cleopatra Maximovna - Anne-Marie Flood

Margarita Ivanovna Peryesvetova - Ruth Jones Serafima Ilinichna - Margaret Jones Nikifor Arsenyevich Pugachov - David Wright

Father Elpidi - Ian Murray Aristarch Dominikovich Golashchapov - Mark Howard Alexander Petrovich Kalabushkin - Paul Heyworth

Raissa Filipovna - Norah Clay Egor Timovyeyevich - Stephen Daniels Henrietta Stepanovna - Margaret Kay Viktor Viktorovich - Andrew Johannesen

Oleg Leonidovich/Kostya - Paul Santus Old Lady 1 - Angela Fowler Old Lady 2 - Barbara Freeman Woman - Christine James

Undertakers Girl - Emma Gardner Young Boy - Tom Armitt Musicians - Kath & Joy Becker


Make up & Hair - Millie Santus, Carole Brindle Wardrobe - Barbara Freeman, Angela Fowler & Ellen Mace

Set design & construction -Graham Brindle, Paul Santus, Carole Brindle and Millie Santus Lighting - Matt Smith Sound - Bill Nutall Front of House - Stephanie Murray & Team

Box Office - The Filling Station


“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn\'t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?” - Winnie The Pooh
Mike B
Mike B
Director / Producer
Director / Producer

Posts : 62
Join date : 2008-09-24
Age : 38
Location : Caerphilly

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