HAMPSTEAD THEATRE: The RSC kicked off its summer season with 'Little Eagles', a biography of Sergei Koryolov, Comrade Chief Designer of the Soviet space programme.
For some reason 2011 feels like a year of anniversaries: 10 years since 9/11, 30 years since Charles and Di, 100 years since the Titanic set sail and so on. Whence comes this collective inability to carp the diem? Could it be broadcasters struggling to fill the schedule in a (non-election) year devoid of an international summer sports extravaganza? Or is it perhaps a mass desire to ignore the cuts and the cringe fest that is the current royal wedding and dwell in the foreign country that is the past: they do things differently there.
The RSC has opted to kick off its summer season of world premieres at London’s Hampsted Theatre by marking the 50th anniversary of the first manned mission into space. Little Eagles
by Rona Munro is a biography of Sergei Koryolov, flawed but brilliant Comrade Chief Designer of the Soviet space programme that shocked the world by launching Yuri Gagarin and his fellow eagles
into orbit, years ahead of NASA.
The play opens with Darrell D’Silva’s Koryolov getting a last chance at life from a despairing prison doctor with one remaining dose of medicine. Koryolov is called to Moscow but he never escapes the ghosts and guilt of the gulag and struggles throughout his subsequent glittering career to reconcile his lofty dreams with the economic implications and political realities of the space race. D’Silva delivers a performance of immense subtlety, rendering the irascible Koryolov an almost tragic figure despite his successes.
Khrushchev and Brezhnev stroll through Koryolov’s story as the sixties march on and there is a hint at the birth of modern celebrity culture in some clever scenes where Gagarin (Dyfan Dwyfor) feels the full force of his newfound fame.
Director Roxana Silbert’s production is very much at home on a Hampstead stage dominated by a vast, metallic missile of a set and it feels much shorter than it’s running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. What price a 10th anniversary revival of Little Eagles
Developed in association with Davidson College, USA
Generously supported by THE BLAVATNIK FAMILY FOUNDATION
The RSC Literary Department is generously supported by THE DRUE HEINZ TRUST
16 April - 7 May 2011
Hampstead Box Office
020 7722 9301