In the summer of 1939 in a small Moscow theatre a company of actors begins rehearsals of a new play to commemorate Stalin’s sixtieth birthday. It’s a tough gig, because for Soviet artists working towards the Radiant Future the old showbiz maxim ‘the show must go on’ is an order you can’t refuse.
Another opening, another show trial! Realism is a comedy of nerves, a backstage farce set in a pressure cooker. It’s about the spirit that makes art live and the forces that want to crush it.
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Male | 40s | 3 to 5 minutes
Starts on page 79
EXTRACT: And the audience is a privileged voyeur on a scene of - a family dinner, let's say. And we are supposed to marvel at how true-to-life everything is. Look at the wallpaper and the cruet set, such telling detail! And don't they look just like a family at dinner? Oh, those delicate, subtle little performances. Such observation! What art! [Pause.] But it's a sham! Because they are all sitting at one side of the table! And they are all speaking loudly, because they are not people having dinner, they're actors who must be seen and heard!
"Paul Galloway's new play, Realism, is set a month after Meyerhold's disappearance, as a nervous bunch of actors rehearse a play written to celebrate Stalin's birthday, horribly aware that a wrong step could mean deportation or death. Worse, a famous footballer, Glemov (Stephen Phillips), has been cast in the title role, and the director has gone missing."
"One of the play's inspirations is the persecution of theatre director Vsevolod Meyerhold, which eventually resulted in his torture and execution in 1940, after the brutal murder of his wife, Zinaida Raikh, the previous year. Perhaps surprisingly, Galloway has written a comedy, although he warns it does not remain light-hearted all the way through."