Moscow 1924. The Soviet Union is an infant. The Revolution is almost forgotten. Communism is everywhere - little understood by the general populace but greatly feared. A landlord and his family have to pretend to be Communists in order to hide their bourgeois origins. Their cook gets mistaken for a Russian princess - the missing Anastasia. And their lodger constantly threatens to bring in the militia because a pan of noodles fell on his head...Erdman writes in the tradition of Gogol (think Government Inspector) - and it certainly shows in this madcap but sinister farce. Its premiere in 1925 was the most successful production by the most famous of Soviet directors, Meyerhold. Now it is given a rare revival at the National Theatre in London in a version written and directed by Declan Donnellan, who has himself staged many productions in Russia in the last ten years.
Nikolai Erdman (1902-1970) started by writing revue sketches and co-founded the Moscow Theatre of Satire. Of his two major plays, the first, The Mandate, was a huge hit in 1925, but in 1928 the rehearsals of his second, The Suicide, were shut down. A third play is said to exist in draft. Erdman went into Siberian exile 1933-40 but resumed his career after the war with scripts for children's cartoons and stage adaptations of classics. The Suicide was not staged until 1982.