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An enchanting performance of Pushkin's favourite


Review by Emma Whitelaw

IN AN age where glitz and glam is so glorified, it is ever so refreshing to see a piece of theatre that ventures back to its storytelling roots.

In a solo performance, the lovely Margaret Wolfit presents Pushkin’s personal favourite novel, Eugene Onegin, at the New End Theatre.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the novel, it is set in 1820’s imperial Russia.

The novel is in verse and follows the destinies and emotional relationships between the central characters. Often in a highly satirical vein, a stylised Pushkin himself tells the story of Eugene Onegin, a disenchanted aristocrat that fails to find any interest in, well – anything really!

After inheriting a large rural estate, Onegin leaves his once beloved St Petersburg in search of a cure for his boredom.

At first, he finds the country life invigorating but it doesn’t last. He finally makes an acquaintance with which to share his tediousness, Lensky; a neighbouring landowner and poet.

Through Lensky, Onegin meets the shy and thoughtful, Tatiana, a young romantic, yet unpolished woman, who falls in love with him at first sight.

She professes her undying love to him in a letter, which he kindly rejects in person.

Suffering the embarrassment of rejection is in itself quite enough to bear, but the poor child must endure his presence at her birthday party.

And not only that, Onegin finds it necessary to cruelly patronise her affections by pursuing those of another, her sister Olga!

In doing so, he does not only upset Tatiana, but his close friend, Lensky, too. Knowing full well Olga is engaged to Lensky, he continues to pursue her, which leads to a duel between the two men.

Onegin soon gets his just deserts, however, when years later he again meets the lovely Tatiana.

Only this time it is different, it is she that catches his eye.

She has matured somewhat and is now married to a prince. Onegin falls in love with Tatyana but she rejects him. Breaking down, she admits that although she still loves him, she must remain faithful to her marriage vows.

Margaret Wolfit tells the tale splendidly; she has a wonderfully expressive voice, which is a joy to listen to.

Her facial expressions and body language, too, are equally as admirable. The audience just loved her and the entire show was a pleasure to behold.

An enchanting performance!

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin and translated by James Fahlen. Directed by Richard Digby Day. Starring Margaret Wolfit. October 24, 25, 31 and November 1 at New End Theatre, 27 New End, Hampstead London NW3. Box Office 0870 033 2733.

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