The War. Edinburgh International Festival. Chekhov International Theatre Festival. SounDrama Studio. Julia Pascal.
This epic work is based on Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero, Nicolai Gumilyov’s Notes of a Cavalry Officer and Homer’s The Iliad.
Edinburgh was given the world premiere of this amazing spectacle. It is a two and half hour drama that dramatically interconnects these diverse texts with a surprising jazzy live score. The War is a brilliantly, martially drilled operatic production. For English audiences is it bizarre to experience the original Aldington text spoken mainly in Russian and surtitled in English but this does help the theatre aesthetic of simultaneous layers of theatrical displacement.
The piece starts in 1913 where a group of young, well dressed artists discuss the impending war. Shockingly they question whether apocalyptic destruction is needed for artists to create.
The first scene dissolves into the conflagration of 1914-1918 as the actors fly in and out of the stage picture. The easy slide from World War One to the tragedies of Greek against Trojan is an exciting theatrical alchemy as Edwardian England shoots back into Greek tragedy. Director Vladimir Pankov offers a daring and rewarding production which takes a great deal of concentration and focus. His fine creation has an effect which is cumulative and disturbing. It is impossible to pick out performances as Pankov has schooled his actors into such a fine company. This is a thrilling spectacle.
Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
Julia Pascal © 2014.