Centre for Asian Theatre’s much-talked about play Stalin, which was premiered at the National Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on Monday, appeared to be missing verve and focus in portraying the life and legacy of late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
While it was understood from the very beginning that the intention of the play, directed by the reputed director Kamaluddin Nilu, is to portray Stalin as the dictator of a totalitarian Soviet Union which killed and crushed its own people, as the play repeatedly reveals, in the lofty names of equality, development, state and so on, the play failed to maintain its focus.
The play also could not convincingly portray that how a leader, apparently committed to the causes of the masses, gradually distances himself from the people and becomes an absolute tyrant.
The two and half hour play rather seemed to be exposing only the frivolities and gaieties of a dictator who is bent on clearing away his personal enemies and to establish absolute control over everything and everyone.
Portraying Stalin often as a gun-toting clown threatening all from the sycophant members of the politburo to his personal assistants seems to have hampered the intention of the play to portray the life of a man, known and criticised for more reasons than one.
Neither the comic scenes, for example, the funny speeches and gestures of members of the politburo whose hands are smeared with people’s blood, could make audience laugh; nor the agonies and emotions in the personal life of Stalin, expressed through his dialogues with his daughter Svetlana, could make any mark.
The whole play, based on a number of books written on Stalin, it seemed, could not make out any firm stand, philosophical or otherwise, to expose the Soviet leader. The only point that one could infer was the sorry state of Soviet commoners.
The long play, which consisted mostly of meetings and dialogues between the members of the politburo and their funny speeches and gestures (though failing in making audience laugh or enjoy) could have been brought into an hour.
To mention some strong points, poetic visuals, light, set and music were the redeeming aspects of the play.
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