The White Guard
by Mikhail Bulgakov
In a new version by Andrew Upton
Few citizens of the Soviet Union would have been audacious or foolhardy enough to write a letter of complaint to Stalin but in 1930 writer Mikhail Bulgakov did just that. After years of being harassed by the Communist censors, Bulgakov requested employment in a theatre or permission to leave the country. Although Stalin isn’t generally remembered for receiving complaints affably, Bulgakov received a personal telephone call in which the dictator suggested he apply for a job in one of the state theatres. Stalin was a fan of The White Guard. So much so he had been to see it over 15 times.
Stalin’s enthusiasm was matched by the Russian people’s and the play’s early success is testimony to its brilliance. It is a drama that has endured the test of time and its most recent revival, at London’s National Theatre last year, received 5-star reviews in which Andrew Upton’s adaptation of the play was described as "Thrilling, darkly comic and often deeply moving..." by The Daily Telegraph (UK). In 2011 we mount our own production of Andrew’s adaptation of The White Guard.
Set in the Ukraine, where the Russian Revolution is sweeping towards Kiev, the play follows the Turbin family as they gather in their home to prepare for the Bolsheviks’ arrival. With the city in chaos, the time has come for its residents to fight or flee. Turbin brothers Alexi and Nikolai have resolved to stay and fight for The White Guard but with Russia broken up into pieces, battling to pull it back together will not be a straightforward task.
As the men ready themselves for the fight, their consistently pragmatic sister Lena strives to maintain calm and order in a home as chaotic as the streets outside. Friends dash in, opportunistic suitors swing by and a sweet, bumbling family member descends unannounced. However, amid all of these arrivals, Lena will also be confronted with a painful and conspicuous departure...