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Sunday 29 October 2017

Role Play

After a late night out it proves useful that the clocks go back this weekend. I think they actually went back before we got to bed, so I’m not sure whether we can say we had an extra hour in bed or not.

When we’re all finally up, Doggo and I go fetch the Sunday paper while MD and L go on the park. We used to then meet up on the park but now we’re all getting older, it takes longer for us to fetch the paper and MD can’t keep going as long on the park. Today, despite leaving first we don’t make it to the park and bump into them on their way home.

In the afternoon I head over to watch the Veteran’s Cycling Championships at Derby Velodrome. They’re all older than me... and they’re all faster than me...

In evening we’re at Broadway with Daughter and several police role play scripts.

Armando Iannucci’s ‘Death of Stalin’, adapted from a graphic novel, shows the aftershocks of Josef Stalin’s (Adrian Mcloughlin) death in 1953 through decidedly British and comedic eyes. Indeed the Central Committee of the Communist Party is portrayed as about as well run as the worst of the worst of British’s Councils back in the 1970s, only more violent. 

The film opens before Stalin’s death with the authorities having to restage a piano concerto because Stalin has asked for a recording of it after the fact. So rather than tell Stalin it’s not possible, the producer (Paddy Considine) forces the orchestra and the audience to stay put while they do it all over again. This involves bribing the pianist (Olga Kurylenko) and finding a new conductor, who turns up in his dressing gown.

Then Stalin has the audacity to die which causes chaos. For a start they can’t summon a competent doctor to confirm his death or to ascertain the cause of it because Stalin has imprisoned or executed them all.

Meanwhile the jockeying to succeed him has already begun. Georgi Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) temporarily and controversially assumes control but he will have to battle to hold onto the leadership as Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) and Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) state their cases. While Khrushchev is the semi-decent reformer and tries to take a more measured path to the top job, Molotov would remove anyone who got in his way. His approach is mild though compared with Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale), who is the head of the secret police, but he doesn’t have many supporters and is messily executed for treason. 

The only people to say anything good about Stalin, perhaps not surprisingly, are his daughter, Svetlana (Andrea Riseborough) and his hot-headed son, Vasily (Rupert Friend). Things then liven up further when Marshal Zhukov (Jason Isaacs) turns up. Nothing portrays this more as a British spoof that Zhukov who appears to be a Yorkshireman with a very broad accent.

Depending on how good your knowledge of Russian history is it can be difficult to follow everything as the film is more focussed on it’s comedic angle than about walking you through the history. Although it is still informative in this way and appears to be highly accurate. You just might have to hit Wikipedia to fill in the gaps.

Although very well acted, I’m not sure the film is actually that funny and, for me, the history of it is easily the most fascinating aspect. An out and out drama might have been more effective but then would anybody else have watched it.

(Sunday 29th October)

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