What’s the most obvious way to play Stalin, the dictator and malevolent ruler of the USSR? Well, as a lovable rascal of course! It is a curious choice and starting point for John Hodge’s protrayl of Stalin. You can hear more of his point of view on dramatizing Stalin below, but it was quite far removed from what was expected.
The play itself is based in 1938 and about the life of Mikhail Bulgakov, the writer and playwright, who was as vocal as you’re allowed to be against the regime at the time. He later wrote a play based on the life of Young Stalin, possibly under some pressure from the government. This play wonders how that may have come about!
The acting is as good as ever with the National, with Simon Russel Beale standing out as Stalin. The few faults I’d find with it are mostly in the script, and the attempts to humanize a monster, and that it almost steps into farce at times. Despite my small reservations, it’s well worth seeing, for the acting alone.