No matter how well versed you are in Russian history, The Rasputin Affair offers a hilarious take on one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century — Grigori Rasputin.
Ensemble Theatre‘s show was sensational. Kate Mulvany’s retelling of the murderous demise of one of Russia’s most cryptic historical figures contrasts his bloody assassination with an outrageously comedic tone. Sean O’Shea’s depiction of Rasputin portrays both the creepy and charismatic sides of the Siberian mystic, who gained the confidence of Tsar Nicholas II in the early twentieth century before his murder by Russian nobles.
Rasputin’s death marked a turning point in Russian history, with the Bolshevik Revolution taking place less than a year after his assassination.
The conspirators consisted of Prince Felix Yusapov (played by Tom Budge), Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (Hamish Michael), right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich (John Gaden), and Minya, the servant with a secret (played by Zindzi Okenyo). Though all the actors gave gut-wrenching performances, Tom Budge stole the show as Prince Felix Yusapov. Budge’s maniacal performance depicted Yusapov as a truly gutless aristocrat with more than one skeleton in the closet.
Director John Sheedy had the audience in complete stitches. The 220 seat stadium-style viewing at the Ensemble Theatre provides an intimate viewing atmosphere, where the audience can see the sweat bead down the actors’ faces. As drama unfolded, often times the actors could be seen breaking character ever so slightly, unable to keep themselves from joining the audience in laughing at the absurdity of the situation.
The comedic element was my favorite aspect of the performance. Too often, when one thinks of theatre, they conjure up images of dark set designs and long dramatic monologues that ponder the meaning of life. The Rasputin Affair hardly takes itself too seriously, and reminded everyone that theatre is supposed to be fun. After the show we enjoyed complimentary drinks on the veranda outside the theatre, mingling with the crowd and watching the waves bounce along the harbor walls.
An international vagabond, Michael has bounced from all corners of the United States, then to Asia, and now to Sydney. When he’s not out on the water racing sailboats, he can usually be found at the local pub laughing at his own jokes.