Ooh.. so I hear The National is moving ‘Collaborators’ from the Cottesloe to the Olivier. I think that’s a good move, it felt too big for the Cottesloe, and I think Simon Russell Beale’s Stalin can fill the Olivier.
It makes me want to see it again.
Simon Russell Beale talks about the stress of playing a megalomaniac mass murderer in Collaborators at the National Theatre.
John Hodge, author of Collaborators, talks about how he created the character of Stalin. John is best known for his work as a screenwriter. His work includes Shallow Grave and Trainspotting.
28 March 1930. Moscow.
After the banning of all my works, I began to hear voices among many citizens of my acquaintance, all giving me one and the same piece of advice: that I should write a ‘Communist play’ (I am quoting them in inverted commas)…The aim: to escape persecution, destitution, and death as the inevitable finale. I did not follow that advice.
…When I carried out an analysis of my albums of cuttings, I discovered that there had been 301 references to me in the Soviet press during my ten years of work in the field of literature. Of these, three were complimentary, and 298 were hostile and abusive…I was referred to as a ‘literary SCAVENGER’ picking over scraps after ‘a good dozen guests HAVE THROWN UP’….I can prove with documents in my hands that the entire press of the USSR has unanimously and with EXTRAORDINARY FURY demonstrated that the works of Mikhail Bulgakov cannot exist in the USSR. And I declare that the Soviet press is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.
…To struggle against censorship, whatever its nature, and whatever the power under which it exists, is my duty as a writer, as are calls for freedom of the press. I am a passionate supporter of that freedom, and I consider that if any writer were to imagine that he could prove he didn’t need that freedom, then he would be like a fish affirming in public that it didn’t need water…ANYONE WHO WRITES SATIRE IN THE USSR IS QUESTIONING THE SOVIET SYSTEM. Am I thinkable in the USSR?
…All my own endeavours to find work in the only field in which I can be useful to the USSR as an exceptionally well-qualified specialist have resulted in a complete fiasco. My name has been rendered so odious that proposals on my part that I should apply for a job have been met with ALARM…I would like to offer the USSR the services of an entirely honourable specialist director and actor, without a trace of the saboteur, who will undertake conscientiously to stage any play, beginning with Shakespeare and coming right up to the plays of the present day.
If I am not to be appointed a director, then I request that I be appointed a regular extra. And if I cannot be an extra, then I request to be given a job as a stage-hand. And if even that is impossible, then I request the Soviet Government to take whatever action concerning me it considers necessary, but at least to take some sort of action, because at the moment what is staring me in the face, as the author of five plays and as someone who is famous both in the USSR and abroad, is destitution, the street, and death.
- from Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov – A Life in Letters and Diaries, Dr. Julie Curtis