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The Umbrella Organisation

The Umbrella Organisation

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The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Complicite/Simon McBurney, Barbican
Me with Red Ribbon
rakspatel wrote in mycroft_brolly
Photo credit: http://www.thinglink.com/scene/327845773007912962

Cut and pasted from the Barbican Website:

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Complicite/Simon McBurney

14 December 2012 - 19 January 2013

Complicite returns to the Barbican following the sell-out success of its acclaimed show in Spring 2012.

A woman goes to hell and back to save her lover. Pontius Pilate argues with Christ about the nature of human worth. And the Devil pays a visit to Stalinist Moscow, exposing the hypocrisy, greed and corruption of its citizens.

Moving between the fervently atheistic Moscow of the 1930s and Jerusalem during the last days of Jesus’s life, Bulgakov’s violent, poetic maelstrom of a novel comes to life through performance, video, puppetry and music in Simon McBurney’s breathtaking adaptation.

Follow the link for all the details:

The Devil
Photo credit: http://www.facebook.com/BarbicanCentre

Raks's Reaction

I was given "The Master and Margarita" by Mikhail Bulgakov to read by my ex-husband many moons ago. I didn't know anything about the novel but my ex told me I just had to read it. I did. It was amazing! I had never read anything like it. It was a flight of fantasy and I just adored it. My favourite parts of the novel are those set in 1930s Moscow, when the Devil comes to town and causes sheer havoc! I just loved the Devil, his Cat, and the tricks they play on the unsuspecting Moscow citizens.

I was of the firm conviction that such a novel could never be adapted for film, let alone for the stage. It was such a work of the imagination. But I saw Complicite's The Master and Margarita at the Barbican on Friday 4 January and YES Complicite had adapted it for the stage AND pulled it off - I was gobsmacked! I thought it was a phenomenal achievement to adapt this novel for the stage. Well done Complicite!

It is hard to single out any particular aspects of the production, but I am going to give a special shout out to the Devil, his Cat and Jesus - all of whom were spot on!

This is the first Complicite piece I have seen in a long time and they have a completely different style of playing. It is hard to describe, but it relies much less on acting and emoting, and much more on the ensemble, the interaction, physical movement, and staging. I thought that some of the stagecraft in the production was astounding - it really was quite something!

To summarise, I read this novel many years ago and fell in love with it. I didn't think it was possible to adapt this novel for the stage. Complicite, to their absolute 100% credit, proved me wrong - good for them!

The Book: Source Material

If you are not able to see the production, I strongly recommend you read the book. It is a phenomenal piece of writing, which is quite unique.

You can buy it on Amazon here for £2 (there are many other versions and editions, this is simply the cheapest):


Book synopsis taken from Amazon:

Moscow, 1929: a city that has lost its way amid corruption and fear, inhabited by people who have abandoned their morals and forsaken spirituality. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in town with a bizarre entourage that includes a giant talking cat and a fanged assassin, all hell breaks loose. Among those caught up in the strange and inexplicable events that transpire in the capital are the Master, a writer whose life has been destroyed by Soviet repression, and his beloved Margarita. Their adventures reveal a story that began two thousand years ago in ancient Jerusalem - and its resolution will decide their fate.

Considered one of the finest creations of Russian literature in the 20th century, The Master and Margarita is an amazing work of fantasy, a love story, a biting satire on Soviet life, and a lot more. Mikhail Bulgakov's last book and crowning achievement, it has been written in secrecy, burned and restored, and banned for decades. Its author, who worked on it until his final days, never saw it in print.


Whilst I am on, I am going to whinge about one of my least favourite theatres in London - the Barbican. I used to go there regularly when it used to be the London base for the RSC. I have not been in a while. But I have never liked the theatre or the venue.

The show is three hours long. The first half is two hours long. You get a 20 minute interval. On Friday when I was there, the queue for the loos, drinks and food at the Barbican were at least 30 minutes each. So basically you are lucky to go to the loo during the interval. Without a doubt, I think they have the worst access to interval facilities of any London theatre that I have been to and they really need to sort it out!
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