From Russia with Laughs; Banned Satire Is a Killing Joke Theatre

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), September 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

From Russia with Laughs; Banned Satire Is a Killing Joke Theatre


Byline: By GILL ISTED

LITTLE known Russian satire isn't usually renowned for its comic appeal, but director Barry Kyle believes Mold's Clwyd Theatre Cymru's latest offering will have audiences laughing.

The Suicide, by Nikolai Erdman, was banned by the authorities even before it was performed and led to its author being exiled to Siberia for 10 years. It was never staged in his lifetime.

Barry Kyle, an honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: "It's really not what it sounds, it's the exact opposite, one of the great comic masterpieces of the 20th century stage. If I had a choice I'd like to rename it You Might Die Laughing.

"It's so incredibly rude about politicians - that's why they banned it, but people will recognise some of these characters because they're still around today."

The lead character Simion is played by Richard Elis - better known for his TV WKD ads, and previously as Huw in EastEnders - while his wife is Loiuse Collins, fresh from playing Mariana in CTC's Measure for Measure.

Barry has transported Erdman's story, in aspects of time and setting, to Wales in 1948.

"Just before the founding of the NHS by Nye Bevan," he explains.

"Suicide was, and is, a public health crisis and one of the things Bevan tried to offer people after the war was a solution to the crises they faced. I think many of us owe much of our lives to the Public Health Act and the Education Act.

"I also like the idea that suicide is something connected to war and unemployment. That makes it so relevant. We're in a recession, trying to deal with the credit crunch, a rise in unemployment, a recent spate of apparently unconnected suicides among young people in Bridgend.

"The play was set in a run-down tenement in Moscow, shortly after Russia had its civil war. …

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