Northern Broadsides in Erdman’s Suicide

Russian drama of the 1920s and 1930s is not easy for a British theatre company. The mixture of comedy, surrealism, social and political satire does not fit in easily with our theatrical traditions. One can understand why Deborah McAndrew decided, for the Northern Broadsides at Harrogate, to transpose Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide from its early Soviet setting to near contemporary Lancashire, and to turn the wry portrayal of life and death under communism to that under British capitalism. But the potpourri of sitcom, Brechtian musical interludes, rhetorical monologues and poignant dialogue did not become a meaningful whole. And the (small) audience seemed unsure as to whether it was funny or serious – it was both. A production more stylised, more abstract, as with the Theatre de Complicité’s recent Master and Margarita, would have worked better. A worthy effort, but sadly a failure.