Unreal, surreal, superb, phantasmagorical, fantastic and immensely thought-provoking, - What else can I say? - David Robinson
17 Jan 13
I've now seen this production twice - in March 2012 and again, last night. I felt myself far more moved on this occasion perhaps because I was taken aback less with the staging and thus was able to concentrate more on the acting. Paul Rhys is about as fine an actor to grace a London stage as its possible to imagine. A profound piece of theatre - do anything legal you can to get your hands on a ticket - Karen Seward
11 Jan 13
I saw this yesterday at the Barbican, and I thought it was quite a disgrace to the novel. I'm sorry to see so many people mistake this for good theatre. I expected Black Magic, but the production amounted to a trivial and tired hocus-pocus only, with unremarkable, by-numbers acting and heaps of unimaginatively used technology. Woland looked and sounded like a Tim Burton prop, lacking all the uncanny ambiguity of the original character, and the humbly dignified Ha Nocri was made into a whining, anorexic pensioner with un ugly willie. Most embarrassingly, the production equated these two characters (mind you, Satan and Christ) in a final 'grand creative gesture' a la Homer Simpson, which couldn't be further removed from the author's intentions. I haven't got enough time to list everything I disliked about the production. The monotonous braying of Pilate, substituting emotional expression. The Scary Spice mannerisms of the slenderized Behemoth cat. The booming Hollywood sound effects, letting us know that something important had just happened on the stage. The occasional silly attempts at 'contemporizing', with iPad and Primark namehecked (as if people pay for a pricy theatre ticket just to be told platitudes about consumerism). Also, I couldn't see why Judas was individualized through his costume as an ethnic Jew, while all the others wore garments of the 'generic signifier' kind. All in all, a big stinker. My two points go for the actor playing the Master, who delivered some moments of true drama, and for the impeccably assisting technical crew. - IstvŠn ZŲld
04 Jan 13
The first half is clever but bitty, as you'd expect from crushing this novel into a three hour play. Satan's story is cut most significantly, making way for the story of Pontius Pilate and Jesus to take centre stage. The production is beautiful, as fantastical projections on the back wall prove epic, and effortlessly merge with the action. Comedy is primary here, as an allo-allo style German Satan (poor Germans, always demonised), in dark glasses and carrying a walking stick, gives atheism a kicking (slicing off a head of one hapless communist), and a walking talking cat with red eyes offers to shag everyone in the stalls. The second half is genius, as the (Margarita and the Master) love story of one naked woman's descent into hell to save her writer boyfriend concentrates all the force of grand expressionism and stunning motion and imagery into channeling the redemptive power of love. Ivan loves the Master's storytelling; Margarita loves the Master so much she sells her soul; Pontius Pilate, the subject of the Master's novel, loves Jesus so much he sacrifices happiness; the Master loves Pontius Pliate so much he redeems him through storytelling. It's all love love love at the conclusion and it works wonderfully well. The performances of Paul Rhys as the self-torturing Master (he also mugs it up as Satan), of Sinead Matthews as a bold nude Margarita and Tim McMullan (his lugubrious voice emanating from between his upper palate and nasal cavity) as a trapped frustrated and depressed Pilate are particularly good. - steveatplays
07 Apr 12
Absolutely stunning kaleidescopic production of the surreal, spiritual and political allegory. Cesar Sarachu a revelation as Jesus and The Devil Wolland. Complicite and Mcburney at their best combining physical ensemble theatre with audio visual high tech. Perhaps a bit too long and maybe the Lady who played Margarita did protest too much! However Paul Rhys as the master / Bulgakov counterpart was compelling! Audacious and innovative as ever! - Tim Armitage
04 Apr 12
Stunning theatricality that left me absolutely speechless. I have seen three adaptations of the novel on stage and this is certainly the clearest, some parts were still marginally confusing but to be honest I didn't care. A wonderful cast in a production of theatrical genius. What I particularly love about complicite is that in their stage trickery you can see the mechanics of the conventions. Truly spell binding, I think its sold out but if you can get returns jump on them. - tel
03 Apr 12
Sinead Matthews wasn't in A Dolls House. - M.Chambers
26 Mar 12
An evening of blazing theatricality but also great humanity. Complicite at their very best, great storytellers making the complex themes come alive! - Simon Surtees
22 Mar 12
Well, Complicite have staged the unstageable! I still donít understand it, but itís a theatrical feast nonetheless, though at 3 hours 15 mins maybe a bit too much food!
Mikhail Bulgakovís novel isnít about a school teacher with a penchant for Mexican cocktails, though if that were also woven into the two stories of Satan visiting Moscow and Pontius Pilateís remorse and regret, it probably would fit perfectly well. It is impossible and indeed pointless to offer much of a description, so I will just say itís a fantasy and a satire and anyone who tells you they understand it is probably lying, or showing off, or bothÖÖ
The reason for seeing it is that Complicite have chosen it as their most ambitious work yet and, lack of understanding aside, it is an extraordinary piece of staging. Much of this is due to the giant video projections of Third Company Limited, more used to projects like Elton Johnís Las Vegas show, the Batman Arena event and U2′s 360 tour. These amazing visuals sit comfortably with the more minimalist imaginative staging and performance style we have become used to from Complicite and Simon McBurney.
Itís great to see Paul Rhys again and there are some excellent performances from Richard Katz, Angus Wright, Tim McMullan, Ajay Naidu and Cesar Sarachu (who on Monday got into a pickle trying to get his loincloth on!) but I did find Sinead Matthews a little OTT as she was in A Dolls House at the Young Vic. Thereís a puppet cat which looks like it walked out of a cartoon and the closing image of a projection of the cast on stage with chairs forming a giant horse is simply breathtaking.
Go for the stagecraft and inventiveness rather than for a good old yarn and youíll probably spend a lot of the evening with your mouth open in wonder. - Gareth James
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