For those who read the famous creation of Mikhail Bulgakov know that the task of staging Master and Margarita is ambitious to say the least. For those who are unfamiliar with the piece, here is the link to some reviews and analysis of it.
I was extremely curious of what Seventh Land Theatre group is going to make of it. Such a contrast between extensiveness of the book, wideness of the space required and Smock Alleys Boy’s School’s limited space and only 45min of dedicated time. Cutting out the Jerusalem part of the book, it appears to be possible. At least when it comes to 3 main characters.
People meet, they fall in love and are extensively happy up until they are hit with reality of money problems (if they are). You can’t put love in a fridge or have hugs for supper. Kisses won’t make a substantial sandwich filling either. Sad truth of romance being killed by materialism is as current as ever. On a nutshell, it is exactly what this performance is about.
Master meets Margarita and love blooms. He goes on to find a job and gets rejected everywhere. She suffers, at some point considering suicide. Master then suddenly disappears and heartbroken Margarita begins her search of him, which leads her to the devil himself. It seems that he knows where she can find her loved one. The audience is then taken to the devil’s ball. After the ball Margarita has a request to make to get her Master back and she does. Soon after we are taken back to the scene from the beginning of the performance – street with random people going each their own direction, a street performer (our devil, who has mastered electric guitar and shows his skill to please the audience), Margarita with a bunch of daffodils (might have been other yellow colored flowers). That’s a plot line for you in short.
Now when it comes to the actual performance. I thought the live music was a very nice touch. For such limited space and time there was perhaps done what could generally be done, when we speak of execution. However I found myself puzzled half way through the act as I couldn’t understand whether I came to see the dance performance or theatre. I guess it should have been qualified as performance arts for a better understanding. To be frank I found it hard to believe Master’s and Margarita’s emotions at times or rather sincerity of them. Choreography could perhaps have been more expressive as well as the actual dancing which felt stiff at times. Boy’s School at Smock Alley Theatre is such an amazing and intimate space in which probably any sort of atmosphere could be created with appropriate lighting set. M&M: The Fairy Tale of Dublin could have perhaps used that feature a bit more to it’s advantage.
I have to give credit for taking on such an ambitious task and, with resources available, to make Bulgakhov’s masterpiece somehow work, ticking all boxes when it comes to action sequences. Seventh Land Theatre made it relevant to all time love stories. Nice little touches with Satan providing musical accompaniment, showing of his powers of controlling the human kind, whispers of the dark spirits and their individuality and others create the uniqueness of the performance for sure.