Conleth Hill and Justine Mitchell
in The White Guard
(© Catherine Ashmore)
Conleth Hill and Justine Mitchell
in The White Guard
(© Catherine Ashmore)
Howard Davies' production of Mikhail Bulgakov's The White Guard, which features Conleth Hill as Lieutenant Leonid Shervinsky, opened Tuesday night in the Lyttleton Theatre at the National Theatre. The production, which uses a new version by Andrew Upton, is currently booking through June 15.

Set in Kiev during the Russian Civil War, the play focuses on three siblings and their friends as they cope with the upheaval of their times.

The company also features Graham Butler (Franko), Anthony Calf (Hetman), Peter Campion (Lieutenant Galanba), Pip Carter (Larion Larionovich Surzhansky), Gunnar Cauthery (Cobbler), Hannah Croft (Officer / Cadet), Marcus Cunningham (Uragon), Paul Dodds (Cossack), Kevin Doyle (Colonel Vladimir Talberg), Nick Fletcher (Captain Alexander Studzinsky), Daniel Flynn (Alexei Vasilievich Turbin), Keiran Flynn (Kirpaty), Michael Grady-Hall (Officer 1 / Doctor), Mark Healy (General von Shratt), Richard Henders (Nikolai Vasilievich Turbin), Paul Higgins (Captain Viktor Myshlaevsky), Nick Julian (Orderly), Dermot Kerrigan (Bolbotun), Stuart Martin (Oberlieutenant von Durst) , Barry McCarthy (Fyodr / Maxim), Daniel Millar (Officer / Cadet), and Justine Mitchell (Elena Vasilievna Turbin (Lena)).

The creative team includes Bunny Christie (production design), Neil Austin (lighting design), Christopher Shutt (sound design), and Dominic Muldowney (music).

The reviews are in and the critics are widely praising both Davies' production and Hill's performance.

Among the reviews are:

Daily Telegraph
The White Guard at the National Theatre, review
"Director Howard Davies never puts a foot wrong in a triumphant production of Bulgakov's The White Guard at the National Theatre."

Financial Times
The White Guard, National Theatre (Lyttelton), London
"Seldom have I so admired the staging of a work while so totally failing to see what it is trying to do."

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"Howard Davies' production is of his usual high quality. Stand-out performances include Paul Higgins as the impassioned captain Viktor and the always splendid Conleth Hill as Leonid Shervinsky, who remakes himself smoothly from the Hetman's aide-de-camp into an aspiring opera singer (and who is Lena's favoured suitor)."

The Guardian
The White Guard
"Howard Davies is our best director of Russian drama. After last year's Burnt By the Sun, he now brings us a breathtaking production of Mikhail Bulgakov's 1926 stage version of his novel about a group of doomed Tsarist sympathisers living in Ukraine during a violent national upheaval. Never before have I seen the chaos of civil war so vividly caught on a British stage."

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"Bulgakov himself also shrewdly sees that even sinking ships have their survivors. The prime example is Elena's lover, beautifully played by Conleth Hill as the archetypal chameleon: realising the Bolsheviks will triumph, he swans off to Moscow to get a job in the opera and returns in a long coat he describes as "essence of prole"."

The Stage
The White Guard
"...this is the National firing on all cylinders simultaneously, which proves that in the immediate wake of London Assurance they have another resounding hit on their hands."

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"It's especially wonderful to see actors like Justine Mitchell, playing the sole female character in the play, and Conleth Hill, who have both worked extensively at the National before, emerging as house stars."

The Times
The White Guard at the Lyttelton
"Howard Davies gives us the feel of civil war: the danger, the confusion, such ugly moments as the murder of a deserter whose rotting feet mean that he isn't worth a hospital bed -- and such farcical episodes as the abject exit of Anthony Calf's blustering, posturing Hetman, ad hoc Lord of the Ukraine, disguised as a heavily bandaged soldier."

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"The revival triumphs. Chekhov or Gorky would have admired the excitement, depression, quarrels, boozing and despair that variously flicker, dip, flare, die in the posh drawing room inhabited by three siblings -- Daniel Flynn's principled Alexei, Richard Henders's goofy Nikolai, Justine Mitchell's enchanting Elena -- and visited by Paul Higgins's bold, wild Viktor and Conleth Hill's hilarious Leonid."

Whatsonstage.com
The White Guard
"The British theatre has done well by the brilliant plays of Mikhail Bulgakov, but it is thirty years since the RSC staged The White Guard; Howard Davies' superb National Theatre revival, in a fleet, funny and idiomatic new version by Andrew Upton (from a literal translation by Charlotte Pyke) is a major event."

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"...although there's not a single weak link in the cast, it's Conleth Hill's glorious study in slimy good manners and political opportunism that strikes to the heart of Bulgakov's bitter eulogy for revolutionary change."

Variety
The White Guard
"With a cast of 23 in a grand-scale production and neither the safety of a well-known title nor a bankable author, "The White Guard" could have been an expensive gamble for the National Theater. But with helmer Howard Davies, a past master of bittersweet Russian epics, and a pungent new adaptation by Andrew Upton, the bet proves not just safe but a runaway winner. "

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"In a typically full-blooded performance, Conleth Hill embodies the play's range as opera singer cum government official."