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MAYAKOVSKY: THE SLANTING RAIN / REVIEWS
Reviews for MAYAKOVSKY: The Slanting Rain
Ed Hughes gives Mayakovsky whiplash energy to an almost frightening degree... It´s a finely detailed performance of immense intensity. It deserves an afterlife.
Writer Andrew Rattenbury´s original work, fired by Director, Michael Vale, allowed actor Ed Hughes to engage with the audience from the outset... I would love it to have a longer life.
Andrew Rattenbury has constructed an intensely concentrated short play for just one actor. The audience is not there to merely absorb the story it is required to reflect the convictions and bitterness of what is before it.
Ed Hughes is a masterpiece of fire and physicality. The poet of the people, he writes and performs for the factory and the shipyard. The piece urging outcry and confusion, is a powerful reminder of a seminal figure in Soviet culture.
Ed Hughes gives a tour de force performance as Russian revolutionary artist and poet Vladimir Mayakovsky... The play deserves a wide audience
THE NEWS LINE
EXEUNT MAGAZINE - RSC Performance 2013
There’s no subtle irony present in the fact that Ed Hughes’ rendition of Mayakovsky chastises Pushkin for being conservative whilst a performance of Boris Godunov takes place downstairs. Whilst the larger production of Boris in the Swan Theatre suggests the danger inherent in revolution, this one man show demonstrates the romance and optimism present in revolutionary ideas, drawing attention to the power of the individual to make change.
The piece, penned by Andrew Rattenbury and directed by Michael Vale, allows Vladimir Mayakovsky (the great revolutionary poet and playwright) telling us his story, refuting his critics and reciting his verse. In just over an hour, we learn about his upbringing, how he found his way into Bolshevik circles and his feelings about poetry. Every few minutes, a snippet of poetry finds its way into the monologue, repeatedly dragging us out of theatre-induced reverie and into the brutal, harsh world of struggle which exists in reality.
Rattenbury’s great achievements in his text are twofold. Firstly, he manages to capture the essence of a man who, throughout his life, was subject to abuse and criticism for being an individualist even though he wanted a better way of life for all. As a part of the Russian Futurist movement, he attempted to look forwards rather than backwards like many of his contemporaries and found himself perpetually re-evaluating and reaffirming his stance on poetry, love and life. The sense of loss and despair at not having more of an impact is palpable.
Alongside this, however, is a gorgeously optimistic homage to the wonders of poetry and its potential for change. Mayakovsky says his chosen art form “wakes up” those who are unaware of what’s happening around them, and recounts his joy in standing in front of thousands of people in order to recite his words. Rattenbury’s script also argues against the notion that poetry which is too “topical” cannot last into posterity, as our hero shouts down his critics by asking them to tell him that in 1000 years time. Hughes’ moist-eyed performance is full of a hopeful, revolutionary fervour, and at times almost had me rising to my feet to grab a red flag (the second time that’s happened in a week; Les Misérables I’m looking at you).
Though at first glance Mayakovsky: The Slanting Rain may be without any kind intrigue, Rattenbury and Vale create an immense tension by asking us to consider in great detail the questions thrown up by having a lone man on stage talking about ‘the people’ and a collectivised society. Does this focus on the individual take away meaning from his attacks on capitalism? Or is it important for any revolution to start with a revolution of the self? The latter certainly seems to have more weight in this context.
Aside from its insights into political struggle and poetry’s place in that change, Mayakovsky: The Slanting Rain also shows the great power we each have as individuals. This is a powerful hymn, then, to one man and his extraordinary words, which, though he was afraid they wouldn’t (he committed suicide at the age of 36), continue to touch us in the twenty-first century in a multitude of ways.