Belgrade stays faithful with guard dog adaptation

Steve Orme

In the year marking the centenary of the Russian Revolution, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and Citizens Theatre bring to the stage an adaptation of Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog, based on the cult novel by Georgi Vladimov.

Michael Glenny translates and Helena Kaut-Howson both adapts and directs the play which is set in 1953 when Stalin is dead and the inhabitants of prison camps across Russia are liberated.

The story is told through the eyes of Ruslan, a dog bred solely to guard prison camps. But he is abandoned in a world without the clear structure and organisation he has always known.

Kaut-Howson said, “Ruslan is a proud and loyal dog bred and trained to serve according to particular rules. He finds it impossible to adapt when the terms of service become obsolete.

“This is a tragic fate shared by many who were betrayed by the changing winds of history. The beauty of the story is that it’s told from the perspective of the dog, with compassion and humour.

“Today it speaks not only as an indictment of the atrocities of the gulag but also as a warning. The tragic fate of a prison guard dog, stripped of his purpose, struggling and unable to find his place once the camp is shut, reminds us of the devastating effects that sudden change can have on society.”

Kaut-Howson has spent more than 40 years directing theatre in the UK and Europe for leading theatres including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog will bring together a creative team that includes Complicité co-founder Marcello Magni as movement director, Paweł Dobrzycki as designer and Boleslaw Rawski as composer.

The ensemble cast comprises Isabelle Joss, Mark Jax, Vinta Morgan, Michael Moreland, Tilda O’Grady, Martin Donaghy, Camrie Palmer, Paweł Zdun, Ewan Somerst, Max Keeble, Hunter Bishop, Sinead Starkey and Nicolas Ralph.

Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog will have its première in the Belgrade’s B2 auditorium which opened ten years ago. It runs from Saturday 2 until Saturday 16 September.