Master and Margarita

By Mikhail Bulgakov
Unity Theatre
1st - 12th October 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Not for Burning

A full house saw this outrageous and fantastical piece of theatre, a joint production between Lodestar Theatre and the Unity itself. Condensed from over ten hours to this two hour play, it was an impressive portrayal, containing the essence of what Bulgakov had written between 1928 - 1940. Suspension of belief, love, black magic, truth, satire, literary expression, mental illness, greed and self-aggrandisement all feature in this subversive masterpiece.

It is a huge undertaking for the cast, who have to carry multiple roles alongside their lead personas. Max Rubin, Director of Lodestar, who instigated the project, plays the satanic Woland, who descends on Moscow one Spring with his acolytes Koroviev (Simon Hedger) and Behemoth the Cat (Hannah Gover), to wreak unforgiving retribution and havoc.
Running riot via a mix of magic, mayhem and murder they destabilise the very fabric of the state and the sanctity and selfishness of its toadying, on the make citizenry.

In this disbelieving atheistic world do they even exist?

The Master of the title is played by Joseph England, a brilliant maverick of the literary world, who has been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution for his novel on the crucifixion of Jeshua Ha-Nostri(Modou Bah) and the role taken in it by Pontius Pilate (Hedger, again).

Margarita (Olivia Meanier) plays the Master's lover, and she is prepared to go to any devilish extreme to get him back. Credit also to Jack Quarton and Teresa O'Brien, who had more than enough costume changes themselves!

Mention has to go to the stage design and stunning use of state of the art lighting, video technologies and use of contempory film to effortlessly ease plot change. Not forgetting some prestidigitation skills and costume design, which helped to bring the whole kaleidoscopic and mesmerising spectacle to life. The Unity, under Artistic Director Graeme Phillips, also deserves due praise.

Bulkakov's tale of comeuppance for most, and the search for peace and redemption through the ambivalence of good and evil, would never have seen the light of day, except for the perseverance of his own wife; she thankfully hid the manuscript that enabled tonight to take place.

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