Review: Boris Godunov, by the RSC, at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
“A comedy about tyranny” gleefully declare the posters around the theatre and the wonderfully dark humour comes with a strong seasoning of violence.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s outgoing artistic director Michael Boyd offers a compelling tale of power struggles, murder and ambition as a young monk challenges the ruthless Tsar Boris Godunov for the throne.
He claims to be a young prince who was murdered when he was seven. Boris knows the truth, but that does not stop the people flocking to the Russian pretender.
Lloyd Hutchinson claims the stage as Boris. He’s charming and powerful ... even joining the audience and seating in the front row at one point. But he’s got blood on his hands and has paid the price for his success.
His guilty conscience makes him start at shadows, but he is prepared to go to any lengths to hang onto power. “Ever heard of a corpse crawling out his grave?” he growls.
Gethin Anthony makes his RSC debut as the cunning young rival Grigorv. He’s the ultimate conman and convinces everyone he’s of royal blood – until his head rules his heart and he confesses the truth to the beautiful and wealthy Marvna.
Lucy Briggs-Owen almost makes Boris look like an under-achiever as she sets her sights on the Russian throne as Marvna.
She’s not interested in romantic declarations or true love, only success – with wealth and power thrown in, of course.
The world premiere of the new adaptation of Russian poet Alexander Puskin’s play is a two hour treat. Puskin was inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth and there are shades of the Bard in this power struggle.
As for the humour, you really cannot beat two rhyming, drink-loving vagrant monks. A great double act.
Until March 30.