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October 4, 2010 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Master and Margarita

Early last week, I, Alison Embleton, met with Travis Graham and Jenny Eccles (both THEA 303 students) to discuss the show they and their classmates have been labouring over all trimester—The Master and Margarita directed by Megan Evans. They were both far more articulate than I, so I have taken everything they said and added a few conjunctions. Hopefully they won’t mind too much. In return (as promised), I am mentioning that they were both very eloquent and unpretentious sesquipedalian speakers.

THEA303 is a course designed to give students an overview of Asian performance disciplines, chiefly: Chinese Jīngjù (aka Beijing Opera), traditional and contemporary Japanese theatre, and Russian biomechanics (developed by Vsevolod Meyerhold). The Master and Margarita subtly mixes elements of the Asian performance practices taught in THEA 303 with a slice of the absurd.

The basic low-down: Edward Kemp’s adaptation of the novel of the same name written by Mikhail Bulgakov, is altered to be based around a play, rather than a book. It delivers romance, anti-Stalinist satire and religious enquiry.

Essentially, The Master (a nameless dramatist) creates a play exploring religion after dreaming about Jesus’ execution. He meets Margarita and, although both are technically married to other people, they begin an affair. The Soviet secret service come and cart The Master to an asylum (the USSR being a secular state they were highly intolerant of religion) and a younger dramatist takes over the play. At some point the devil shows up disguised as a magician with a posse of miscreants and creates havoc. More people end up in the asylum. The idea of death or a kind of Dante-esque limbo being preferable to life is promoted.

It’s Russian. Do not expect My Little Ponies. Both Travis and Jenny assured me that while the plot seems rather unhinged, it makes sense when you actually see the play.
Huge effort has gone into the set design and construction (with help from the THEA220 Scenography team). Effort which has absolutely paid off—its a simplistic and striking set, well designed to accommodate the filmic structure of the play. All students have dual acting and tech roles for the show, so for the past trimester their lives have been centred around the The Master and Margarita. The dedication these guys have is enviable. Their tales of all-night stage floor painting, Friday night and weekend-long rehearsals were spoken about with enthusiasm. Jenny and Travis agreed that this way a spectacular way to round off their degrees.

Expect extravagance, anticipate special effects, await beheadings and get your supernatural on. This show is going to be excellent.

Rumour has it that Baz Luhrmann is in the process of acquiring rights for a film adaptation of The Master and Margarita. So book now for the New Zealand premier performance by Victoria University theatre students. This way you’ll see it in all its deserved excellence, before Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman can press their faces to the silver screen dressed as cringe-worthy oppressed Soviets.

So go and see it.


The Master and Margarita
Tuesday October 5th until Saturday October 9th
Show starts at 7:30pm (Friday 8th already sold out)
Book tickets: email theatre@vuw.ac.nz or call 04 463 5359
CASH ONLY ticket sales.
Studio 77, 77 Fairlie Terrace, Gate 10 of VUW.
$8 for students (community service card holders and the elderly included)
$15 for everyone else.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Why are you masquerading as a girl called Alison Embleton?

  2. Holiday Golightly, Travelling says:

    Not anymore!

  3. smackdown says:

    dont disparage my flatmate alison embleton grr

  4. Alison says:

    I only said lovely things… unless I am to assume you live with Nicole Kidman/Hugh Jackman? Or potentially… *gasp* Baz?

  5. smackdown says:

    no ur my flatmate stop being in denial and pay your 10th of the power bill

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