London: Maxim Gorky’s play Enemies, adapted by David Hare

Maxim GorkyFrom London daily The Morning Star:

Thursday 18 May 2006


The Almeida Theatre, London N1

TOM HARPER applauds David Hare‘s adaptation of Maxim Gorky‘s 1907 play which draws political parallels of insecurity and fear.

David Hare continues his artistic assault on the current political climate with his superb adaptation of Enemies, a Russian tale of social upheaval, blinkered prejudice and rabid paranoia.

One of Britain’s most esteemed playwrights, Hare’s most recent work was Stuff Happens, a critique of the foreign policy judgements leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Enemies, written in 1906 by Maxim Gorky, has provided Hare with further opportunity to highlight the uncertainty and fear prevalent across the world today.

His programme notes betray an almost childish eagerness. “Here was exactly the kind of play that you dream of coming upon.

True to its historical moment but also speaking to concerns of our own.”

The tale is set in a pre-revolutionary Russia already suffering the first murmurs of the class struggle that is to come.

Zakhar Bardin is the enlightened industrialist whose every action, however well-meaning, is condemned by both sides.

The “liberal hero” recognises the unjust suffering of his workers but has to deal with the fear and anger felt by his family and friends at the proletariat’s increasing unrest.

The ensemble cast, numbering over 20, represent all factions of society and the divisions within the bourgeoisie itself.

The young niece Nadia and the glamorously progressive Tatyana sympathise instinctively with the workers.

But the gruff old General Pechenegov and sinister Nikolai are threatened and outraged by the changing and turbulent times.

All find it difficult to exist in this decaying and uncertain world – indeed, the lugubrious drunk Yakov, brilliantly played by Jack Davenport, cannot survive a painful morning without turning to the bottle. Suspicion and violence ensue.

Here, then, is the parallel that Hare attempts to draw between this world’s insecurity and the cultural collisions of our own.

“We are, every one of us, more or less condemned to believe what our class and social circumstances lead us to believe. How do we begin to develop the imagination to cross the line into other people’s experience?”

Plays until June 24. Box office: (020) 7359-4404.

Gorky: here.

Often found is the mistake of lumping the ‘anti traditionalist’ Proletkult tendency in the USSR with ‘traditionalist’ Socialist Realism, based on Ilja Repin in painting, and Gorky in literature.

Anti-capitalist play by capitalist and playwright Alfred Nobel: here.

George Bernard Shaw: here.

3 thoughts on “London: Maxim Gorky’s play Enemies, adapted by David Hare

  1. Pingback: HG Wells, Attenborough, Martians and Tasmanian genocide | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Photomontage artist John Heartfield, new online exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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