I went to see my first full run through of “I Killed Rasputin” this morning. After last week’s mild panic that the thing might be 40 minutes too long I was relieved when it came in at 92 minutes (and that included a fair amount of faffing around as actors tried to remember lines or find props. The first 50 pages were done in 40 minutes and the next 30 took 50 minutes, so I am fairly confident that once the 2nd half is up to speed we’ll be more or less at the allotted time-slot. And it looked really great with funny and moving performances from all the cast. A couple of bits felt a little long but I missed a couple of the bits we’d cut so I made some light adjustments to the script. I think it’s going to be all right. In fact it might even be pretty good. I think comedy fans might find it surprisingly serious, whilst theatre fans might dismiss it as overly comic (as if that’s a bad thing, but then if you only go to see theatre you have a pretty limited idea of what a big laugh is), but there are some big themes in there. And one that has come through almost subconsciously (though certainly something I was aiming for with Rasputin himself) is the way that historical figures become legends and myths almost immediately. A lot of the history is told in almost cartoonish flashback, but this is a deliberate attempt to show the way that important figures lose their true personality to become defined in broad brush strokes. So we have a childish, mildly charming, but ultimately petulant Hitler, a scheming Stalin, a homophobic Nazi Edward VIII making fleeting appearances. And Rasputin himself is impossible to pin down as a person - is he a devil or a Holy Man? A saint or a sinner? Can we ever know the truth? Or are we foolish to attempt to define anyone in terms of moral absolutes.
Is any story objectively true? Do we begin to believe our own lies? Can we trust the memories of someone at the heart of a story like this, when they are obviously going to try to ensure they come out of things as best they can?
I was pleased and relieved that the director has done so well in blending together the different styles within the piece, with the flashbacks leaping into colourful life amongst the more realistic setting of the interview.
Gugus was not available for this run through, though he is going to get his own dedicated puppeteer (we had wondered if we might get away with various members of the cast operating him).
If you can’t get to the Fringe but can get to Hammersmith we are doing previews on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week at the Riverside studios. If you can get to the Fringe, then please come and help me claw back some of the huge looming debt. Buy your tickets here. Or get tickets to Lord of the Dance Settee here. Or buy tickets to both shows on the same day and save yourself a fiver here.
I don’t know if the play will have a life beyond the Fringe. It’s all in the hands of the audiences and the critics now. I am proud and slightly amazed about what we’ve achieved so far. I guess you’ll need to check in in a month to find out if it’s all been worth it, though whatever happens this has been an amazing experience and succeed or failure I am very glad that I tried. It would have been easier (and a lot cheaper) not to take this chance. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I hope I have done the story and the people involved in it justice.
After a few days of feeling knackered I had heaps of energy today and enjoyed a fast (for me) 30 minute swim and a good hour of walking. People are noticing the change in my shape, though today I also clean-shaved for the first time in a good while. I looked like a teenager in my opinion. This self-delusion might make you reevaluate how good my play might actually be.
In a week’s time I will be in Edinburgh. My 23rd Fringe. If it doesn’t work out then I am only going to give this thing 23 more tried before accepting defeat.