Play of the Week: Boris Godunov, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

 

The Royal Shakespeare Company is the natural home for Pushkin's great drama, with its echoes of Macbeth and the history plays, and its policy of commenting on the political turmoil of its own era, the 1820s, through a depiction of the unrest in an earlier period – Moscow at the cusp of the 17th century.

Given a springy translation by Adrian Mitchell, and incisively directed by Michael Boyd, this production marks its English-language premiere at a flagship theatre.

With feigned reluctance, the title character takes the throne by demand after the death of Ivan the Terrible but his reign is dogged by rumours that he ordered the murder of Ivan's son. A monk, Grigory, challenges his authority by assuming the identity of this rightful heir and raising an army.

Crackling with topicality, the play is a mordant commentary on the instabilities of power, which Boyd's production is alive to in the modernity that creeps into the clothing and the physical black slapstick.

(0844 800 1110; rsc.org.uk) to 30 Mar

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