An Evening with Uncle Joe Stalin.

A visit to the Capstone Theatre has always been a must for me ever since I saw the stripping down and reassembling of a £114.000 Model D, and that’s a Steinway piano I’m talking about here… live on stage! The venue has easy parking, is well landscaped for a walk around if you arrive early, an on-site bar and good seating for the performance is always attainable all in a relaxed atmosphere where you can strike up a conversation with fellow theatre-goers with ease in those moments before the doors open.

That’s the Capstone in a nutshell! All at Liverpool’s International Arts venue, Shaw street, Liverpool L3 ; a fantastic new arts complex within easy walking distance of all the major shopping zones. I must have been a glutton for punishment though when I visited the other night to see the production of “Stalin’s Favourite”.

It was described in the fliers as a disturbing exploration of Stalinism through the private lives of those who endured it. But then, having strong family links with the East and that era, I had only to ask my aunt who lived in the shadow of the Soviet era, what life was like then. As a child I had been told time and time again of the hardships but still people managed because the State looked after them. The majority had a job of some sorts. It was indeed a terrible time, but Soviets with problems were sorted out one way or another. Today, in Russia, there is nobody to sort your problems…that’s if you haven’t got the money.  I was intrigued by this play as it was based on a book I’d read called “The Whisperers” by Orlando Figes an authority on Russian history. Actor Rupert Wickham (Bourne Identity, Waking the dead, Band of Brothers)  famed throughout the land in various Shakespearian character parts, wrote and adapted the book for stage brilliantly that evening.

This play was direct from the National Theatre so obviously had a good pedigree, design and lighting which all flowed along with subtle Soviet anthem marching music as background giving a mood to Rupert Wickham’s portrayal of Konstantin Simonov, who in a moving collection of memoirs examining his own concience and trying to repair some of the mistakes of his past, gave a superb evening performance at an exhaustive pace. Rupert certainly did justice to the book and conveyed the true ferocious nature of the era to an eager audience who sat on the edge of their seats awaiting the next terror tale from his lips.  Don’t miss Theatre Unlimited following on in “Defying Hitler” – a brilliant, moving  and terrifying evocation of the destruction of civilisation in Germany under the Nazis.

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