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Witchcraft In A Wine Cellar: The Master And Margarita Review

The Master and Margarita, Barons Court Theatre ★★★☆☆

Sarah Stewart
By Sarah Stewart Last edited 14 months ago
Witchcraft In A Wine Cellar: The Master And Margarita Review The Master and Margarita, Barons Court Theatre 3

Mikhail Bulgakov's infamous satirical novel from the 1930s, The Master and Margarita, is surreal, quixotic and was unsurprisingly censored by the Soviet Union which it ridiculed. These same qualities are made clearly manifest in this clever theatrical adaptation by Theatre Collection.

Tucked away in a quiet, unassuming West Kensington neighbourhood, the Barons Court Theatre at the Curtains Up pub plays host to the spookily dramatic production. Whlie it's spare and minimal — especially given the cosy space in the pub's former wine cellar — the actors conspire to whisk you away to another reality, very much like Margarita's transformation into a witch for the atmospheric satanic bacchanale.

The emotional tension of the lead characters plays out in full force. The Master (Mike Archer) is an aspiring and idealistic but struggling playwright. He's writing a play about Jesus and Pontius Pilate for which he is condemned and ridiculed by critics, who care little for religion. If not for his devoted and passionate lover, Margarita (Lucy Edwards), he would have burned his manuscript.

The critics, meanwhile, attract the attention of mysterious Professor Woland, here played as an elegant and enigmatic villain with a set of sinister henchmen including a lipstick-smeared, sneering man, a sexually provocative woman and a large black cat. Mayhem duly ensues.

The characters impart an appropriate sense of forboding and transport us easily into their surreal realm. Meanwhile, Margarita strikes up a dangerous bargain to save her lover and take revenge on those who would ruin him. This is a flowing adaptation of a difficult novel to adapt (it moves from Soviet Russia to the realm of the devil and back again) and altogether adds up to a wild, witchy ride.

The Master and Margarita continues at Barons Court Theatre at Curtains Up pub, 28a Comeragh Road W14 9HR, until 26 March. Tickets £12-£14. Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 20 March 2016