The website of the historical fiction writer.

Scott and Stalin

As you saw yesterday I went to London last week for a day out.

First stop was to the Natural History Museum, the Home of World Science and the Holy Land for children everywhere (it certainly was when I was young). There is an exhibition about Captain Scott’s voyage to the South Pole which is very interesting. The exhibition room is built the same way as the Terra Nova Base Camp hut. Areas have been marked out such as kitchens and bedrooms and objects they would have used, such as food, tools and scientific equipment. To put this in context, there are photographs and film showing the explorers and scientists inside the rooms. Along with diary extracts, there are maps showing the expedition’s progress compared with that of the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who beat Scott to the Pole. Although Scott’s party were visibly disappointed in the photo of them at the Pole and they died on the way back, reaching the South Pole is a great achievement, even today.

Next stop was the National Theatre to see Collaborators. I don’t know why but no matter how much time I give myself to get there, I always arrive at the theatre by the skin of my teeth! Then there’s the squeezing past people to get to my seat (a bit like that scene in Inglourious Basterds when the two assassins have to get to the middle of the row pretending to be Italian: ‘Scusi… scusi… scusi… scusi…’) Anyway, everyone was very nice and displayed much British reserve (not complaining) as I sat down so, if you’re reading this, thank you all.

Anyway, the play is set in the USSR in 1938 and a playwrite who falls foul of the NKVD is bullied into writing a play for Stalin’s sixtieth birthday. As the story unfolds the audience learns about Stalin, life in Soviet Russia just before the Great Terror and how easy it can be to fall under the sway of an absolute power. It reminded me a bit of The Last King of Scotland where the British Doctor is taken in by Idi Amin (played brilliantly by Forest Whitaker).

Anyway, if you’re in London and stuck for something to do I can strongly suggest you try these:

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit-us/whats-on/temporary-exhibitions/scott-last-expedition/index.html

http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/68811/productions/collaborators.html

(But hurry up with Collaborators as it finishes next Saturday!)

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2 responses

  1. Hi James
    I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Jan:o)

    18/06/2012 at 7:02 pm

  2. Thanks Jan! I’m glad you enjoy them. I really should get into a habit of putting more on here on a regular basis!

    18/06/2012 at 10:33 pm

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