Review by: Paul Towers, 07 September 2017
The Conductor, based on the novel by Sarah Quigley, adapted by Mark Wallington
A Raving Mask presentation with Deborah Wastell, Joseph Skelton and Daniel Wallington
Upstairs @ The Western, 7th & 8th September 2017
“educational and thought provoking.”
The Conductor is a seamless blend of fact and fiction charting the writing of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony against the backdrop of the siege of Leningrad in 1941 as the Nazis surround the city and bomb, shell and starve it into submission as part of their assault on Russia.
Most of the cultural elite are evacuated early in the siege, but Dmitri Shostakovich, the most famous composer in Russia, stays on. At night he composes a new work, his 7th symphony.
After Shostakovich and his family are forced to evacuate, Karl Eliasberg, a shy conductor of the second-rate Radio Orchestra, and an assortment of musicians are left behind in Leningrad to face an unendurable winter and start rehearsing the finished score of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony.
This talented cast of three bring the story to life against a background of the fledgling music. Daniel Wallington as Shostakovich sat at an electronic keyboard and produced the most amazing grand piano sound as he coaxed the symphony into life. Joseph Skelton as Karl Eliasberg conveys the horror of living amongst the rubble of Leningrad as he tries to maintain a semblance of culture to lift the spirits of the remaining residents. Deborah Wastell swaps clothes to convey the various women in the men’s lives.
I had no connection with Shostakovich’s music before this evening. In fact classical music in general is anathema to me, probably because I don’t understand the story behind the pieces. The Conductor, as well as telling the story of the creation of the symphony also explains the narrative of the music. I think I will appreciate this piece a little more now.
This is an educational and thought provoking story behind an iconic piece of classical music.
The Conductor is at Upstairs at The Western again on Friday 8th September