Bliss

by Fraser Grace

27 May - 13 June 2020

"It's good to see you’re alive.
Good to know not all the ghosts in the streets are enemies..."

The world premiere co-production direct from performances in Russia

A world premiere of a new play by multi-award-winning dramatist Fraser Grace in a British-Russian co-production, direct from performances in Russia, Bliss opens at the Finborough Theatre for a limited three-week season on Wednesday, 27 May 2020.

1920. Russia. Winter. 

When ‘victorious’ Nikita returns home from the brutal Russian civil war, he attempts to start a new life balanced precariously between his drunken father Mikhail, and his new wife Lyuba, the feisty young girl he remembers from his school days. When Nikita fails to consummate his marriage – all the while aware that he is being watched by a mysterious figure – he is sent into a spin of alternative universes. When he finally emerges in a new town further along the Potudan River, he is at first amusingly adopted and put to work by market traders, only to be then accused of a crime ‘against the Soviet State’. And the local Communist Party Investigator is summoned…

Based on a short story by the brilliant but little-known Russian writer Andrey Platonov (1899-1951), Bliss is a colourful and strangely heart-warming kaleidoscope of song, laughter and magic, as the survivors of years of devastating war and political revolution all search for their ‘bliss’ in the cold toxic reality of life in post war Soviet Russia.

And they start to comprehend how a society needs time to recover from catastrophe, how real love has both passionate and practical faces, and how the future is only built by those who manage to survive their past…

About The Playwright Fraser Grace

Playwright Fraser Grace’s first play Perpetua was joint winner of the Verity Bargate Award, and his best-known work, Breakfast with Mugabe, was premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Swan Theatre, Stratford–Upon-Avon, where it won the John Whiting Award for Best New Play and a Silver Sony Award when broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and the World Service – all directed by Antony Sher. Breakfast with Mugabe has since been revived in the UK and in the USA, where it was again shortlisted Off-Broadway for The Broadway Alliance Award for Best Play. His other plays include Always Orange (The Other Place, Stratford-Upon-Avon), Kalashnikov: In the Woods by the Lake (National Tour), Tongues (Menagerie National Tour), King David Man of Blood (Mercury Theatre, Colchester), The Lifesavers, nominated for TMA award for Best New Play (Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and Theatre503), Frobisher's Gold with Janet Suzman (Shaw Theatre), Who Killed Mr Drum (Riverside Studios), Gifts of War (Menagerie at Theatre503), and Perpetua, joint winner of the Verity Bargate Award (Soho Theatre and Birmingham Rep).

About The Writer Andrey Platonov

Writer Andrey Platonov (1899-1951) was a Soviet existentialist writer, and although he was a Communist, most of his works were banned in his lifetime because of their sceptical attitude towards collectivisation and Stalinist policies, as well as for its experimental, avant-garde form. His most famous novel is The Foundation Pit; although since his death, his novel Soul has emerged as one of the favourite novels of contemporary Russia. In 1920, he joined the Communist Party, and at the time of writing The River Potudan (on which Bliss is based), he was also working on the railways delivering troops and supplies and clearing snow. He continued writing prolifically, although for a period of five years he abandoned writing to work as an engineer stating that he could not spend his time “just contemplating”. Stalin was ambivalent to Platonov's worth, calling him “a fool, idiot and scoundrel,” but then later describing him as “a prophet and genius”. Tatyana Tolstoya described him as “an extraordinary writer, perhaps the most brilliant writer of the 20th century”.

About The Director and Designer Paul Bourne

Director and Designer Paul Bourne is Artistic Director of Menagerie in Cambridge, as well as Co-Artistic Director of Divadlo 6-16 (Prague), Associate Director of the Meyerhold Theatre (Moscow), and Associate Artist of the Platonov Festival (Voronezh, Russia). Direction and Designing includes Frobisher's Gold (Shaw Theatre), Stand By Your Van (Pleasance Edinburgh), Egusi Soup (Soho Theatre, Birmingham Rep and Nottingham Playhouse), Out of Your Knowledge (National Tour), Swimming (Pleasance Edinburgh), In The White Highlands (Soho Theatre), Hard Sell (Theatre503 and Jatka 78, Prague), Animal Farm (Voronezh Theatre, Russia) and Correspondence (Jatka 78, Prague).

About Menagerie

Menagerie is a 20-year award-winning new writing theatre company based at The Cambridge Junction. Its international co-productions of plays – including work by Steve Waters, Janice Okoh, Tim Etchells, Fraser Grace and Naomi Wallace – have been seen  in Cambridge, London, Edinburgh, St Petersburg, New York, Prague, Frankfurt, Belgrade and Voronezh, Russia.

The Press on Playwright Fraser Grace

On Breakfast With Mugabe at the Royal Shakespeare Company

“Short, tense and devastating.” Kate Kellaway, The Observer

“There's black comedy and a ticking tension in the power-play between the two men.” Paul Taylor, The Independent

“We are often told that political theatre is one-sided, partial and unfair. But I recommend the sceptics to take a look at Fraser Grace's compelling 90-minute play.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Fraser Grace’s taut meditation on guilt and power…in Mr Grace’s capable hands, Mugabe rightfully deserves a seat alongside Macbeth, Richard III and other tragic, power-siphoning Shakespearean anti-heroes.” Catherine Rampell, New York Times
On The Lifesavers at Theatre503
“Anyone interested in child-protection issues, or who simply craves an ingenious, thought-provoking night out on the fringe, should see this.” Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
“Grace...is a fiercely intelligent writer, and this is a gripping play.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
“In the anxiety that gives his writing a shuddering energy, he catches something of the mood of our own uncertain times.” Sam Marlowe, The Times
On Perpetua at Birmingham Rep
“Fraser Grace's play won the Verity Bargate Award, and a worthy winner it proves to be…this drama has got you by the throat and is squeezing hard.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian
“A gripping play...I don't remember the last time my heart was in my mouth as much as it is here…as the first major for this writer it marks the arrival of a significant talent.” The Birmingham Post

The Press on Director Paul Bourne

For HOTBED at Theatre503

“The evening is a mini theatrical treat; sometimes good things come in small packages.” British Theatre Guide

“Witty scripts directed and delivered with energy and style.” Evening Standard

“A dizzying trio of comical, moving and sometimes disconcerting pieces.” West End Wilma

“Fast and furious.” WhatsOnStage

“A night of theatre that is fast paced, innovative, and inspiring.” One Stop Arts

For Why Can’t We Live Together? 

“A beautifully simple script that exposes the fragility of love and marriage.” British Theatre Guide

“The writing is crisp and witty and the timing is impeccable in this fast-paced show.” UK Theatrenet

For Somniloquy 

“Eerily beautiful and oddly poetic.” Time Out

“A brilliantly twisty piece. It’s funny, it’s thought-provoking and it’s worth the price of admission alone.” WhatsOnStage

For How to Begin 

 “A joy and thrillingly refreshing.” Reviewsgate

27 May - 13 June 2020

Week 1-2

Prices until 7 June 2020

Tickets £18, £16 Concessions

Concession Details

Tickets £18, £16 concessions, except Tuesday evenings £16 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £18 all seats. Preview (27 May) £14 all seats.
£10 tickets for Under 30s for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only.
£14 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Saturday, 30 May at 7.30pm when booked online only.

Week 3

Prices from 9 June 2020

Tickets £20, £18 Concessions

Concession Details

Tickets £20, £18 concessions, except Tuesday evenings £18 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £20 all seats.

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here

PLEASE NOTE THAT LATECOMERS CANNOT BE ADMITTED AND TICKETS CANNOT BE EXCHANGED OR REFUNDED.

Tickets and Times

Tuesday 7:30pm
Wednesday 7:30pm
Thursday 7:30pm
Friday 7:30pm
Saturday 3:00pm
7:30pm
Sunday 3:00pm

Running time TBC