David Schneider's Making Stalin Laugh to Premiere at London's JW3

By Mark Shenton
20 May 2014

David Schneider's Making Stalin Laugh is to premiere at London's JW3, a purpose-built Jewish Community Centre, on the Finchley Road in Hampstead, which has also commissioned the play. It begins performances June 15 prior to an official opening June 18 for a run through July 9.



Matthew Lloyd will direct a cast that includes Darrell D'Silva and Sandy McDade.

The play revolves around the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre, one of the most respected and critically acclaimed theatre companies in the world, until its most prominent writers were executed at the hands of Stalin in 1952 in an event known as the ‘Night of the Murdered Poets.' At its centre is the celebrated Yiddish actor of his generation Solomon Mikhoels – the heart of a company which had Chagall as their designer and Prokofiev, Stanislavski and Eugene O’Neill as fans. Their executions represented the end of the flourishing Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union and, to a great extent, Europe.

In a press statement, playwright Schneider, whose screen credits include "The Day Before" and "I'm Alan Partridge," commented, "As part of my research for my doctorate in Yiddish at Oxford, I kept coming across this incredible theatre company who influenced and were respected throughout the world by the greats of the time. It revolved around this amazingly charismatic actor-manager, Solomon Mikhoels who was killed by Stalin in 1948. With the remaining leading lights of the company meeting their end in 1952, I was fascinated by this company trying to make theatre in the most difficult of conditions."

He goes on, "It's as if getting a bad review in the Times could actually lead to your imprisonment or death and yet the more I read about them, the more they were just actors, getting annoyed about other actors stealing their laughs, having affairs, mucking about, being funny. I loved that idea: the humanity and humour that shines out in the most difficult of circumstances, and I've tried to write a play which is really funny as well as moving."

To book tickets, contact the box office on 020 7433 8988 or visit www.jw3.org.uk.