Collaborators is the story of Bulgakov's surreal experience of writing a play, which ultimately is manipulated by Stalin's threatening influence. Bulgakov is seen struggling with his guilt over collaborating with Stalin, whom he knows is evil. He has surely struck a deal with the devil himself as we learn of the fear and horrific acts of cruelty experienced by the Russian people and other dissidents during Stalin's regime.
Throughout the play the suffering and constant persecution inflicted upon dissidents is expressed with black comic drama and fantasy and conveys how Bulgakov is trapped by Stalin's devious trickery and tormenting, while the playwright struggles also with a kidney disease that ultimately killed him about two years later.
The play opens with Bulgakov having a nightmare. We see Stalin enter the playwright's bedroom from a cupboard and proceed to chase him around the room threatening to hit him over the head with a typewriter. This madcap scene resembles an old silent movie and is a very funny piece of black comedy. Judging by the laughter from the audience, they loved it.
There are many chilling moments when you may find yourself laughing out loud when you know you shouldn't; especially when Stalin suggests it is important sometimes to look at things from a different point of view. "Leave the slave labour to me," he says, and takes over the writing of the play. At the same time he proposes that Bulgakov should approve the country's production targets and organise a list of names of people to be shot and simply approve the paperwork with the initials "JS."
This fascinating production will hold your attention with its brilliant performances from the entire cast. The direction from Megan Dansie is first class and the naturalistic style is perfect.The dialogue is captivating with memorable exchanges between man, Bulgakov played by Gary George and monster, Stalin, played by Peter Davies.
***** out of *****
When: Fri & Sat 3,4, 10, 11, 17, 18 Oct. at 8.00 pm
Backstage tour after the 5 Oct matinee.
Phone: Stirling Players' Ticketing 0414 075 413
Photography: Courtesy of Mark Anolak.