Wednesday 1st August 2019 at 2Northdown Theatre, London.
10 Days That Shook The World takes the wildly complex subject of the Russian Revolution in hand by focusing on the work of one journalist and his dedication to covering what many wanted covered up. It’s a devised adaptation of the works of John Reed and Louise Bryant and it’s performed as a high-stakes whistle stop tour of Reed’s life and death, limited to the time spent in the realm of revolution and thereafter.
Directed by Milo Morris, the cast deliver the story in energised terms. From the defiant way they stand in wait to the plosive speeches, there’s a well maintained sense of pent up energy. A handy glossary is provided at the start of the performance to make the terms used accessible to those without a pre-existing knowledge of the clashes between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoise and beyond while the cast offer a play-within-a-play set up to hammer home the importance of the people and the work being dramatised.
Action is punctuated by songs of protest and activism – the songs of Katrina Rose, Natasha Du Prez and Eli Wooding and cast at large provide a backdrop of melancholy and anger as the increasing unrest plays out. But while it’s ragey and rousing at its best, it’s also a little uncertain and unpolished, with cast members stumbling over lines in pacier moments and losing lines completely in the process.
The production moves between narration and brief interactions with various figures, from workers rebelling against the system to allies endangering the lives of those they don’t recognise as comrades. In this episodic approach, the production illustrates Reed’s experiences on a bite-sized scale without getting bogged down in lengthy exchanges. But with the cast narrating throughout and the scenes so fleeting in between, there is a sense of lacking connection with the individuals presented despite some nice scenes between Reed and Bryant as husband and wife working side by side.
10 Days That Shook The World is a well constructed political piece which feels timely in a world increasingly angry about divisions and the corruption of the powers that be. It’s a bold choice of work and even if it doesn’t quite spark revolutionaries into being in the audience or prompt us to go out and buy a copy of Reed’s book, it does well to appreciate the life and work of its muse.
Thereby Hangs a Tale‘s 10 Days that Shook the World plays at the 2Northdown theatre until August 3rd and you can find tickets here.
Full cast: Katrina Rose, Fionnuala Donnelly, Natasha Du Prez, Jake Bishop-Ponte, Yvette Morris and Eli Wooding.