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The Revolutionaries

    by Philip J Hoberman


An important moment of history is highlighted in ‘The Revolutionaries’. The theme of the play is the fight for power around the time of Lenin's death and takes place in the aftermath of the 1914 Russian Revolution. Lenin knew he was dying and was concerned about who might be his successor. He favoured Leon Trotsky, but as history tells, Stalin was very much in the way.

The play deals with the scheming manoeuvres and betrayals of the politburo (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Radek etc) coupled with Trotsky's psychological state of mind and his self-justifying reasoning for giving into fear, weakness and letting go of leadership. Enveloping all this like a dark cloak is the unscrupulous ambition and brutality that Stalin instigates to secure his progressive grip on the succession and on the party's machinery.

The story is set in two time periods - during the revolution and then later on, when the character of Old Trotsky (questioned in the play by a 'Chairman' who remains as a witness throughout) narrates from his memoirs and implies that Stalin had a hand in Lenin’s death. These two times combine eerily with each other, giving the play an exciting atmosphere of history and realism. The conclusion is controversial and the play ends with the accusation that Stalin had Lenin murdered by poison.

The play is well researched, the pace is swift and intense; full of action and period details. The dialogue is clear and entertaining. Somewhat male dominated (simply reflecting the masculine nature of the times), Lenin's wife, Krupskaya and the fiery revolutionary, Kollontai are the main feminine characters.


Principals (10m, 3f)
  Lenin - mid 50’s, tired-looking and close to being worn-out, clear hypnotic voice
  Trotsky - early 40’s, a male and military presence vibrates with a charismatic vitality and a cool, conscious self-possession
  Stalin - early 40’s, short and slightly deformed, coarse provincial accent, crafty, rarely smiles
  Krupskaya - early 40’s. Lenin’s wife. A tall, thin, matronly woman with bulging eyes wears a long, grey shapeless dress
  Zinoviev - an old bolshevic, mid-40’s, all nerves, mercurial demagoguery and tousled hair, a bit fat and pale
  Kamenev - an old bolshevic, the quintessential academician in looks and temperament: urbane, moderate, pleasant-mannered and well-spoken
  Radek - an old bolshevic, a monkey-ish small man, curly side whiskers and rubbery face, horn-rimmed glasses and buck teeth, restlessly lively, witty and sarcastic
  Kollontai - an old bolshevic. An attractive, mature woman, she has an unmistakable bohemian air about her despite the severe, but still shapely, clothing
  Molotov - an old bolshevic, stocky like a bulldog, with a round balding head and beady eyes behind glasses
  Gorky - the writer; the Commissar of Culture, tall, lanky, with long black hair and a moustache, he is a youngish-looking man of bohemian distinction
  Old Trotsky - still proud and sprightly, but subdued and pale, with thick white hair, goatee beard, and tortoise-shell glasses
  Mr Chairman- an imposing white-haired man in a black suit
  Nadya - Stalin’s wife, a pretty but serious young woman.
Support (8m, 3f)
  Doctor Foerster - a tall, distinguished, grey-haired Germanic-looking man with a crusty distinction
  Natalya - Trotsky's attractive, petite wife
  Svetlana - 16-18. Stalin’s daughter. A pretty girl, picturesquely defiant in her short shorts and tight white sweater
  Worker Soldier - 30’s, an experienced, street-wise man
  Peasant Soldier - 18-22, a country bumpkin, a redneck
  The Butler - Lenin’s butler
  Inessa Armand - Lenin’s mistress. She appears as The Red Domino, a metaphor(non-speaking on stage, but a recorded voice speaks a few lines)
  The Photographer - takes the official Party photographs (non-speaking)
  Workers Delegation - three rough-hewn older workmen (two are non-speaking)

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