Sung at a funeral and a wedding today. The full gamut of the human experience from the ridiculous to the utterly pointless.
A restless bunch of young radicals hang out, have sex, dance, drink, moan and philosophise at the home of a prosperous decorator. While Pyotr, a sometime student of law, falls for the lovely, loose-living lodger, his sister carps on about the tedium of life, lusts after Nil - who's blind to her charms but in pursuit of the servant - and botches her own suicide.
Life. People shout, fight, eat and go to bed. When they wake up? They start shouting again. In this house everything fades quickly. Tears, laughter. Everything. Dissipates. The last sounds ringing out over the lake. Then nothing. A banal hum.
A household falls to pieces as the personal and political turmoil of pre-revolutionary Russia gathers pace. Gorky's darkly comic first play of 1902, banned from public performance under the Czarist regime, is seen here in an exuberant new version by Andrew Upton.
Philistines premiered at the National Theatre, London, in May 2007.
Andrew Upton is Artistic Director of the Sydney Theatre Company, where his first play, Hanging Man, was staged in 2002, followed by Riflemind in 2007. He has adapted a number of classics for the company, and in 2007 his version of Gorky's Philistines was seen at the National Theatre in London, followed by Bulgakov's The White Guard (2010) and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (2011). He wrote the films Bangers (1999), which he also directed, and Gone (2006), and the libretto for Alan John's opera Through the Looking Glass (2008). Maxim Gorky was born in 1868, suffered a deprived childhood and spent his early youth as a vagrant, but by the 1890s he was ranked with Tolstoy and Chekhov among Russia's leading writers. For long he was best known in the West as a novelist, notably for The Mother (1907) and for the three volumes of his Autobiography, with only The Lower Depths (1902) established on the stage; but in the last third of the twentieth century his other plays began also to be recognised for their portrayals of the painful pre-revolutionary decades. Besides Philistines (1901), these included Summerfolk (1904), Children of the Sun (1905), Enemies (1906) and Vassa Shelesnova (1910). After some equivocation and years in exile, he finally embraced the Revolution, and died in 1936.