BBC Radio 3, 19 February 2012
It's 1984, and Andrei Demidov (Julian Glover), an internationally acclaimed
- and outspoken - critic of the Soviet regime, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. However authorities are not
particularly keen on allowing him to travel to the West, unless he accepts some kind of a deal. He can either live
in permanent exile, or refuse the award and thereby enable his son Nikolai (Leo Bill) to leave Soviet
Russia and make his home in the West instead.
Doug Lucie's play revisits the familiar territory of the Great Game, where nothing
is quite as it seems. Andrei's literary agent Michael (David Bamber), a Cambridge-educated socialite, turns out
to be a spy; Yuri, the chair of the Soviet Writers' Circle (Nicholas Woodeson), who offers the deal to Andrei, turns
out to be Andre's wife Alexandra's (Stella Gonet's) ex-lover, with a personal grudge against Andrei. Although victimized
by the Soviet regime, Andrei seems to be cut from the same ideological cloth as those he purports to criticize;
they are all representatives of an old communist order which would come to an end within a few years.
The script was full of sinister euphemisms, suggesting that none of the protagonists
could enjoy freedom of expression: Andrei was ordered to do his "patriotic duty" and refuse the Nobel Prize; Michael
thought of himself as "a facilitator"; while Yuri had "Plan B" up his sleeve, in case his original plan failed to materialize.
Perhaps the most honest character of all was the KGB 'minder' Sergei (Jason Watkins), who kept watch over Yuri and held most
of his visitors in the utmost contempt. He allowed Michael to talk to his "client" - i.e. Yuri - delivering the word "client"
with particular emphasis on the first two consonants of the word, as if he knew full well what Michael's real purposes were.
In the end Andrei made his decision, and was congratulated by Alexandra for
having done so. Above all, she believed that he was a fighter, whose work had changed people's lives. Nonetheless I felt that he
had paid a terrible price for his dedication to politics: Andrei was a pathetic wreck of a man, who was probably not
fit enough to travel to Sweden, even if he had wanted to. Perhaps the Soviet authorities knew this in advance, which is why
they offered him a deal. He was quite literally in the "sunset" of his days, with little to show for his efforts apart
from his books.