Bit from London: CHILDREN OF THE SUN

by Lynn on July 9, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer

July 7, 2013, Matinee

 At the Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre, London. Written by Maxim Gorky in a new version by Andrew Upton. Directed by Howard Davies. Designed by Bunny Christie. Lighting by Neil Austin. Music by Dominic Muldowney. Sound by Paul Groothuis. Starring: Lucy Black, Gerald Kyd, Emma Lowndes, Maggie McCarthy, Justine Mitchell,  Geoffrey Streatfeild.

 The problem with Gorky is that Chekhov came first and said it all. So that when Gorky said the same things and chided the idle class and championed the working class, modern audiences think it’s been said before and better. The people behind me were really disappointed and thought there were no characters in Children of the Sun who are sympathetic. They are wrong. (Sorry I never say that, but I am here). The people here are trying to make do with an exasperating man in their midst.

 Protasov is a scientist working in his own lab at home. He says that he is looking for the secret of life and that in about 400 years his work will make a difference. In the meantime he neglects his unhappy wife Yelena. Melaniya, a local rich woman is in love with him and will sacrifice anything for him. His sister is fragile and has ‘episodes’. She is loved by Boris the vet, but she refuses his love. People in the town are getting sick and think it’s the experiments of Protasov. It turns out that there is a leak in one of the tanks that holds his chemicals and they are leaking into the water supply. Shades of Enemy of the People. The people get fed up and attack the house and torch the lab.

 The acting is superb with Geoffrey Streatfeild as Protasov just the most wonderful distracted, bumbling, blind-eyed twit you could imagine. The adaptation uses modern colloquialisms that seem right in 2013 even though the play was written in the early part of the 20th century.

 And the effect of torching the lab is eye-popping. A torch is thrown in the lab. The flames billow up. Then they catch the chemicals and there is a huge explosion and the place is engulfed in flames. Blackout. Now that was festive.

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