A RUSSIAN IN THE WOODS received its world premiere alongside Martin McDonagh’s LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE at the RSC, Other Place.
Set amongst the ruins of post-war Berlin, a young soldier is sent for a weekend to guard a deserted British army office. In the corrosive atmosphere of Cold War power struggles, he innocently finds himself caught up in a situation where his conscience is on trial.
CAST INCLUDED: Anthony Flanagan, Anna Madeley, Louis Hilyer.
Robert Delamere's beautifully acted production so movingly summons a bygone era and moment of personal crisis that the whole piece burns with authenticity.
Peter Whelan's excellent new play… Anthony Flanagan, in his professional debut, is first-rate as the hero struggling to find his identity in an alien world, and there is impeccable support from Anna Madeley as the traumatised secretary and Colin Mace as a bull-necked staff sergeant. See Whelan's play while you can: it may, for all we know, be one of the last in a historic RSC line.
‘Berlin thriller grips and haunts….’
‘Whelan seamlessly weaves the personal and the political in a beautifully written piece that brilliantly conjures up the atmosphere of the time, and a group of sharply drawn characters almost none of whom are quite what they seem.
Robert Delamere's production does full justice to this rich and humane play, beginning with an evocative montage of documentary sound which transports us back from the fall of the Wall to the tense, pre-Wall Berlin of 1950. Simon Higlett's not-quite-naturalistic design superbly captures the once-handsome villa in Charlottenburg where the education centre is housed, and a wider impression of devastated Berlin.
The performances are outstanding. In a remarkable stage debut Anthony Flanagan plays Pat with endearing gaucheness, stubborn bloody-mindedness and moving emotional depth, while also showing how the narrative has been filtered through the dramatist's memory.
Anna Madeley is vital and raw as the alluring, troubled Ilse; Louis Hilyer is both hilarious and touching as Fraser Cullen, a camp, Pandarus-like sergeant in the Army Kinema Corps who is tougher and wiser than he appears. There's strong support too from Colin Mace as a sinister Intelligence sergeant, Charlie Simpson as a despicable CO, and Douglas Rao as the predatory American.
I have a hunch that Whelan's potent mixture of gripping Cold War thriller and haunting memory play could have a long, lucrative life beyond Stratford.
’One of the year’s best plays…Whelan captures an era but releases the past into a present maelstrom of fear and loathing. It is a remarkable achievement with rare RSC commitment and beautifully directed by Robert Delamere.’
‘The RSC, which did well by Peter Whelan’s Herbal Bed, does almost better by this gifted playwright’s semi-fictional memoir of national service in postwar Berlin. He added some abortive romance and plenty of John Le Carre intrigue to his ruefully observed portrait of a crazy army, a confused city and an increasingly divided world. The result is a generous, rewarding play - one of its author’s best.’