To the Barbican – not my favourite venue to get to, walking through the often chill and draughty concrete – but in this wondrous burst of early spring sunshine my friend and I got there early on Wednesday and took a pic-nic to munch on the terrace beside the fountains. So we were mellow and fortified as we sat down for three and a quarter hours of Bulgakov. Of course it’s Bulgakov through a pretty reliable theatrical prism – an adaptation of “The Master and Margarita” by Simon McBurney and Edward Kemp, with McBurney’s remarkable Complicité company of performers, designers and technicians.
Once again, it was grand to see one of the actors from my time at RADA giving a startling performance – Sinead Matthews plays Margarita – but it’s the amazing ensemble work, and the extraordinary stage images which, as always with Complicité, stay in your mind long after the show.
The original novel, written just before the second World War and not published until the 60s, is long and complicated, and deals with big philosophical, political and religious themes. This adaptation zings along, and really doesn’t feel like the three-hours-plus-interval it demands of your time. If you get a chance to buy one of the few remaining seats, don’t hesitate.
Another treat this week was to take time off from working at the fast-developing www.teachyourselfacting.com and return to Gower St, until not long ago for sixteen years my place of work as a resident director. My former colleague Neil Fraser, the Director of Technical Training, invited me to run a mock-up technical rehearsal session with first-year technical students. The difference between teaching at a top-level vocational school and any other form of teaching is that the students really want to be there, really want to know what you can teach them. As well as me in the role of production director, the dozen or so students had the full-on attention of their two stage-management tutors, Dave Salter and Chantal Hauser – seasoned professional practitioners, both – and seemed to be getting a lot out of the session. It’s always en-livening to be with young, keen techies. I can’t exaggerate how much I reckon the technical work at RADA – if you’re at all interested in the production side of our business, do check it out. That also applies, by the way, to any one interested in directing – you can’t really direct without a thorough knowledge of the practicalities of the craft.
And it really is – for the moment anyway – Springtime in London. March 21st is the first day of spring, and also my daughter Cressida’s birthday, and the last few days have been sun-splashed, warm and infused with just a hint of optimism…Russell Square is teeming with daffodils and overseas students:
and here at Waterside, the little plum tree blooms…