Plot: Colonel Kotov (Ciaran Hinds), decorated hero of the Russian Revolution, is spending an idyllic summer in the country with his beloved young wife Maroussia (Michelle Dockery) and family. But on one glorious sunny morning in 1936, his wife’s former lover Mitya (Rory Kinnear) returns from a long and unexplained absence. Amidst a tangle of sexual jealousy, retribution and remorseless political backstabbing, Kotov feels the full, horrifying reach of Stalin’s rule.
The main reason why I wanted to see this play was because of Ciaran Hinds whom I have seen in a number of films and made for tv movies. But it was his role as Captain Wentworth in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that I fell for him hook line and sinker. Tonight was the play’s first preview and it was nice to also be in the company of fellow theatre trotters Phil, Tim of LondonTheatreGoer, Andrew/Phil of the West End Whingers fame still flying high from their recent success after their blog was named as one of the 100 best blogs in the Performing Arts by the Times. YEY!
Tonight is the first preview so expectations are not very high. Saying that, I am amazed at the bevy of talent in this production with Hinds, Rory Kinnear and Michelle Dockery. Please dont shoot me for this confession, but as I am a late bloomer for theatre, I didnt really understood the magnitude of Kinnear’s talent until I saw him in the BBC’s The Long Walk to Finchley where he played Denis Thatcher opposite to an equally effervescent Andrea Riseborough as Margaret. No, I did not see him in The Man of Mode, The Revenger’s Tragey or Philistines. I am playing catch up here alright? As for Dockery, I saw her in Pillars of the Community and last year’s Pygmalion as Eliza Doolittle at The Old Vic.
It took a while for me to get into grips with the play, it wasnt until halfway to the interval that it really got me itching to see Act 2. For a while I even thought, but this is just my type of plot, as I do love anything that has to with espionage when reading or when watching a film. So what was really going on in my head was how good must the film be and how I can get my hand on a copy to see it. Altogether, it was brave attempt to do a stage adaptation. I am not a big fan of films being translated into stage plays but the effort was there – a revolving dacha courtesy of Vicki Mortimer, melodious singing which has now become a staple fare at the National, and a superb performance from the cast, particularly Hinds and Kinnear. I thought Dockery was given too little to play with. She is more than a pretty face, saying that I couldnt help but notice her beatifully trimmed eyebrows! So yes, I’d like to see more of Dockery act; I was mulling over the thought that she could have played a better Barbara Undershaft than Hayley Atwell, although I meant no disrespect there of course.
The highlight of the evening was really my chance meeting with Mr. Hinds who was ever so accommodating when Andrew and I approached him. And our conversation went something like this:
Simone: Hi, I am Simone, I have loved your work since Persuasion, and I really enjoyed your performance tonight.
Ciaran: Really? Thank you!
Andrew: (Sorting out the iPhone to take a photo) Be still as this doesn’t have flash.
Simone & Ciaran poses
Simone: Well,my sister is surely going to be jealous now.
Ciaran: We dont really want her to be jealous now, do we?
Simone: Well, she went and saw Al Pacino whom I love in L.A., we both love you but I am the one here, so bad for her!
Ciaran: Oh right! (He was about to sign my programme then asks) So is Simone spelled with an e in the end? (Brownie points for asking!)
Altogether a wonderful evening at the theatre!
Burnt by the Sun: 3/5
Playing at the Lyttelton, National Theatre until 21 May