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John Hodge

An unbelievable story happens with writer Mikhail Bulgakov one night – or maybe he dreams it. Joseph Stalin invites him into a secret tunnel located under Kremlin and proposes the following: “Let’s switch!” It’s 1930 and Stalin is currently organizing collective farming and ridding his party of traitors. Bulgakov has just started writing a praising book about young Stalin with which he hopes to buy the permission to stage his banned play again. And so the two men switch places – or maybe Bulgakov dreams that they switch places. Stalin writes pages and pages of the toughening of a young Georgian revolutionary on his typewriter, while Bulgakov signs crop confiscation and deportation orders that destroy the lives of millions.

The ever-changing Bulgakovian world is quite funny in the theatre: characters appear from closets, people are chased around the bedroom in their underwear, Stalin is doing a Georgian dance and one sees passionate actors of the Soviet propaganda theatre. That is, if it really is a dream, a fantasy. But what if it becomes true? The opposition of power and mind was and still is very real, just like people can really be manipulated. Back then a simple publishing permission was enough to break someone; it was enough if you offered small comforts to a Soviet person humiliated by his tough living conditions, such as warm water and real coffee. The stakes are different nowadays, but it is still possible for a trivial deal or an unnoticeably uttered word, an action or a signature that “no one will find out about” to trigger an avalanche of pure evil. This is exactly how it happens in Collaborators – and it is actually not important at all that this all plays out only in a dream. Because it is the person’s own sense of responsibility, the moral gauge within that is always the deciding factor. So that Stalin would not be right when he says in the play: “It is easy to kill enemies. The real challenge is to change the way they think, to gain control over their mind. And I think I played quite successfully with your mind. In a few years I can say: Bulgakov? Yes, we managed to train even him. We broke him, so we can break anyone. It’s a human’s battle with a monster, Mikhail. But the monster always wins.”

Hendrik Toompere jr recently also played Mikhail Bulgakov in the Estonian Drama Theatre in Jaan Undusk’s Boulgakoff. The last words of Bulgakov in that play which is no longer in the repertoire – “More! More! More!” – turned out to be prophetic: Bulgakov is also played by Hendrik Toompere jr in Collaborators and her wife is played by Merle Palmiste. Guido Kangur plays Stalin.

Directed by Merle Karusoo
Design by Pille Jänes (guest)
Lighting by Margus Vaigur (Endla)
Music composed by Urmas Lattikas (guest)
Choreography by Teet Kask (guest)
Translated by Triin Sinissaar
Cast: Hendrik Toompere jr, Guido Kangur, Merle Palmiste, Maria Avdjushko, Roland Laos, Hendrik Toompere jr jr, Mari-Liis Lill, Raimo Pass, Jaan Rekkor, Indrek Sammul, Sulev Teppart (gues appearance), Johannes Tammsalu.

Dates Start time Kirjeldus Stage