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A heavy dose of realism

The luvvies will love it – the latest MTC offering is one for theatre buffs and dahlings. Realism is the work of one of the MTC’s own, publications co-ordinator (and writer of program notes) Paul Galloway. It’s a wordy, complex play delving into a rich diversity of topics and set in the Soviet Union in the summer of 1939, when the country was well and truly under the thumb of dictatorial leader Joseph Stalin.

Suspicion, treachery and betrayal were rife. The arts were made to sing a single tune, extolling the non-existent joys of life under Stalin totalitarian regime.

Galloway uses rehearsal time among a group of actors at a small Moscow theatre as a microcosm of all that ails the cultural life of a country (any country, not just the Soviet Union) when the arts are controlled and dictated to as they were under Stalin. In the early stages he uses humor to great effect. As the play progresses, the mood darkens and becomes chilling until the final moments of unexpected mayhem.

Some memorable comic highlights (especially Grant Piro’s demonstration of the Meyerhold method of acting, John Leary’s relaxation routine and Miriam Margolyes’ display of funny walks) but the play does need a good edit. There are too many longueurs, too many lengthy diatribes, too much exposition with little action – static moments when the cast seem lost amid the gigantic industrial set.

Overall, it’s probably the best piece of theatre to come out of the MTC so far this year. But, sadly, it could have been so much better and soared to even greater heights rather than languishing halfway up the slopes of achievement.

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