August 2, 2022. Almeida Theatre
In the current era of Londongrad, we are taken back to Glasnost and Perestroika in Russia.
The oligarchs are in full flow following the opening up of Russia and Boris Berezovsky is the alpha at the head of the pack. A child genius, mathematician who could have put his ambitions to winning the Nobel prize, instead chooses to liberate Russia by buying up state media, buying state industries and opening up capitalist markets to “save” his country. He believes the way to save Russia is to be liberal.
Along his ambitious way he picks up an ex-deputy mayor of St Petersburg who he thinks he’ll be able to make his puppet — Putin and, an ambitious, quietly spoken “kid” — Roman Abramovich who he makes his pupil and cash cow for introductions to Russia’s political elite. He also hires Alexander Litvineko for his personal protection.
All names we recognise. All with a level of infamy.
Berezovsky wants to save his country but his megalomania means it can only be done his way with him pulling the strings. He places Putin in power and the puppet turns against his puppet master showing no desire to be controlled. Each man believes what he is doing is for the good of mother Russia. Each man believes himself the greater patriot.
The interplay between the three main men is superb. Tom Hollander, Will Keen and Luke Thallon are brilliant. I’ve waited for about 10 years to see Hollander on stage and he didnt disappoint. He brings an air of sophistication to the proceedings. Will Keen was astonishing as Putin and frankly for me he was the performance of the night — the humble quiet man, hiding the power-hungry sociopath who is ruthless in his political power moves and ultimately devastating to Berezovsky as they fundamentally disagree on what is best for Russia. And I am continually impressed by Luke Thallon — AfterLife, Camp Siegfried and now this. He brings an air of innocence to the kid and then an air of a man haunted by the decisions of others, yet making political decisions motivated by self preservation.
The set is impressive for such a small space and is very “high-end strip club” with red lights, leather and eerie lighting.
It’s 2.5hrs and my attention was starting to drain in the first half. But the second and longer half packs all the punches. I couldn’t take my eyes off the increasingly sadistic Putin and the increasingly erratic and then broken Berezovsky.
The message from this? Each believe they are the bigger patriot and are acting in the best interests of the country. Each despises the other and refuses to give an inch. Remind you of anything? The solution has to be dialogue and compromise, something these men could not do.Something we are still not doing.
4/5 The Russians love their children too ~ Sting