The Master and Margarita – Complicite at the Barbican, until 07 April (Sold Out)
Few companies generate the same level of excitement before a new production as Complicite. There is a noticeable frisson of energy circulating the foyer before the audience takes it seat that is the result of a reputation for innovation and startling coup de theatre. It is a position that is very much deserved, as for three decades Complicite have pushed at the boundaries of the possible in both staging and story-telling; they have championed physical theatre and challenged the standardly linear model of naturalistic performances as a mechanism for exploring deeper metaphysical questions in their work.
This approach has been extraordinarily effective in tackling themes and stories that would otherwise be far too complex to bring to stage. Who else would have attempted A Disappearing Number, a play that shone a light on the 20th century mathematical genius, Ramanujan, and engaged the audience with the complexities of sting theory? Or attempted Mnemonic, a play that was part anthropological lecture told through the story of a corpse entombed in ice, part-character study of those involved in his later discovery and throughout an examination of memory and its mutability, fragmentation and unreliability.
Mikhail Bulgakov’s 1930’s Soviet satire, The Master and Margarita, often held up alongside the greatest novels of the 20th century, has defeated visionaries from Polanski to Fellini. It’s digressive storylines and recursive plotting variously tells the story of the titular characters, The Master and Margarita, and the lengths they would go to for love, whilst also featuring the devil in the shape of Woland and a retinue of associates who wreak havoc on the Soviet literature establishment, whilst a dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Christ interweaves and informs the narrative throughout.