We are in the midst of the Russian Revolution of 1917, but the story we know from history books might not be the correct ones.
In Matthew Jameson’s production, we see matters through the eyes of an American observer, John Reed (Jameson himself), with the audience in situ and at home invited to stomp, sing, and wave flags (or at least something red).
This is a political thriller about the rise of the workers and the fall of the Tsar. Delivered in a lively style which reaches through the last century and makes the issues very contemporary, Ten Days has style and something of tongue in cheek.
Truly epic with a near three-hour running time, this play is bravely staged and developed on a grand scale. Numerous characters we know on an almost mythical scale appear alongside the proletariat.
Discussions on the proposed Republic are framed as management/union meetings at committee. That this becomes a mass murder of the Royal family makes it all the more chilling.
Staged with the audience right in the thick of the action, Ten Days underlines the right to protest, to withold labour, to dissent against the ruling classes.
When democracy is under threat from many quarters, Jameson’s script feels very current and pertinent. Conflict in history always has something to teach us.
This is history set in accessible form, with a scattering of Lenin and Trotsky, and those who believe in their authority to rule literally positioned at a height above the main action.
I missed the location captions as the camera didn’t always capture them in time, so you might have to work out when and where you are, but that’s a small criticism.
You also really need headphones for this one as a couple of the actors’ voices were not that audible without really pumping up the volume (beware, there is a lot of shouting elsewhere).
Hurray for gender and race blind casting, though, as Oyinka Yusuff is an outstanding Trotsky from her first entrance, firm and resolute.
Most cast members play multiple roles: Tice Oakfield is both the patronising Tsar and revolutionary Lev Kamenev; Steven Shawcroft is Koba (aka Stalin) and Ulyanov, brother of Lenin.
This is a state of the nation piece that really highlights where we are now; it is rewarding to watch even from your sofa and certainly does not lack ambition.
You can watch the recording of Ten Days (streamed live on 23 Mar) until 12 Apr. Book here.
BolshEpic Theatre make their debut with this production: with the elements of fun, commentary, and challenge, they are definitely a company to watch.