National Theatre, Cottesloe. English version by Declan Donnelan. Directed by Donnelan
A revival of a neglected play by a neglected author, a farcical satire on the revolution and its impact on the middle class, longing somehow for the return of Czarist Russia. The play was Erdman’s first; it made a hit in a production directed by Meyerhold, in 1925. A dress purported to have belonged to the Czar’s daughter Anastasia is left in a trunk for safekeeping by Tamara Leopoldovna at the house of her friend Nadajda Guliachkina, whose son is so intimidated by what the Party may do to them — they have no working-class connections — that he pretends to join the party and drafts a “Mandate” that he pretends has been given to him. Meanwhile, the family’s servant Nastia — short for Anastasia — is put in the dress, with complications that stretch out over two acts.
This is a very funny play, and the production has a fairly clear tone and purpose from the simultaneous presence of Declan Donnellan as translator and director. The farcical style is well pronounced, and appropriately exaggerated.