I spotted this play on the shelves in the UQ library and was drawn to it for its title. The play I am currently working on is set, in part, in Moscow. I had a moment’s hesitation as I leafed through Moscow Gold, because it’s a long play and I knew I’d need more time for reading it. It also has 102 characters. That’s a lot of characters to keep track of and follow in a quick read.
But I put these reservations aside because Moscow Gold is about the perestroika and I knew there’d be characters, local colour and themes that would be relevant to my research and my play. And I’m so glad I did. Tariq Ali and Howard Brenton have written a play that is brave, surreal and exciting. It’s biographical in that it deals with historical events and features Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev, Boris Yeltsin and a host of other players in Soviet Union politics in the 1980s. But it’s fantastical in that Gorbachev has long conversations with Lenin’s ghost. The Berlin Wall flies onto the stage and disappears again. There are trap doors in tables, moving pagaents and characters breaking into song.
In many ways this play is a glorious tribute to Meyerhold. In an appendix at the end of the script, Howard Brenton says they “have tried to grasp the Byzantine, multi-dimensional ‘unreal-reality'” of Russian society in 1985. Reading Moscow Gold, it appears they’ve done so brilliantly.
GORBACHEV: I am sick and tired of fellow Russians talking about their souls. This Russian soul of ours Boris, what is it? Self pity, desperation and a bottle of vodka.
YELTSIN: When there is no food, vodka is a help.
Publisher: Nick Hern Books
Cast: 21M, 9F