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Good Night Out presents

A Model for Mankind


by James Sheldon


Directed By Blanche McIntyre


Cock Tavern Theatre


27 March – 17 April










A review by Angus Templeton for EXTRA! EXTRA!


The Cock Tavern seems an odd place to learn about the life of Russia’s greatest modern composer. Dmitri Shostakovich was the most celebrated artist of any kind during the Soviet Era, earning numerous awards and medals, including an Oscar nomination. And yet I had never heard of him when entering this tiny Kilburn Theatre.

A Model for Mankind is told through the eyes of Anton Albedov, one of Shostakovich’s peers, who is being brought before a subcommittee of the Soviet Union investigating whether a soon to be published memoir about the great composer is accurate. This then shapes the rest of the play delivered as a series of snapshots of Shostakovich’s life, fleshing out a portrait of a man who was focused on his art, and continually pulled into the realities of the system he worked for.

While the acting was consistently good, the play as a whole was let down by several peripheries. The set was put to good use, but cluttered, giving the audience the feeling that the actors were moving around it rather than interacting with it. Some of the lighting, especially during the Committee hearings, was insufficient to illuminate all the actors on stage, and the use of the projector was redundant.  While it was helpful being told which part of Shostakovich’s life we were seeing, one could deduce that information from the dialogue immediately preceding each segment. When one actor is playing two different roles, part of the enjoyment of the play is to work out which one he’s inhabiting, and how they relate differently to the other characters on stage. This gives the audience the chance to appreciate the subtleties of the acting – especially Paul Brendan who plays the same character over the course of thirty years, or Jack Lewis’s characters, Andrei Gavanov (Zhdanov) and his great nephew, Commissar Strelyenko.

For a play about a famous composer, relatively little time was spent on Dmitiri Shostakovich’s music. We are instead given insight to his private life, and his relationship with Isaak Bashevsky. We also spent a long time discussing what was or wasn’t truth, which, in the Soviet Union as well as many other (modern) regimes, is what the powers that be decree is true rather than what is based in fact. This is the first full length play that playwright James Sheldon has written. It mixes the two eras of Russian history together quite well, but takes too long to get to grips with the plot.

I would enjoy watching this show again, in a larger theatre where the director has more room to maneuver. As it is, I’m inclined to excuse the faults of the show in favor of the quality of the performances.





Box office:  08444 771 000


Cock Tavern Theatre
125 Kilburn High Road
 London, NW6 6JH

27 March – 17 April, 7.30pm Sat Matinee 3.00pm







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