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The Death of Ivan the Terrible

14th March 2007

Photograph of The Death of Ivan the Terrible

Thurso Players are in the final stages of rehearsal for their forthcoming Historical Production, 'The Death of Ivan the Terrible'. The play tells the story of the declining years of one of the greatest sadists in history - Ivan the Terrible - or Ivan Grozni as he was known to the Russians. It has been said that Ivan was held in high regard by Joseph Stalin, so much so that he modelled himself on the great dictator. Given some of the atrocities committed in Stalin's name, this would seem to be quite probable.

Czar of Russia from 1574 to 1584, Ivan was a contemporary of Elizabeth I and, as is less well known, a suitor for her hand in marriage. Ivan's crimes against his people were unutterably monstrous, but he is best known for one single crime - the murder of his eldest son and heir.

The story starts with the death of Ivan's son in 1581 and ends with Ivan's own death in 1584 and shows Ivan as a powerful sovereign whose cruelty can partly be excused by difficulty in imposing order in Russia. This historical period was popular because comment about later governments was censored. It was important because Ivan was the first sovereign of all Russia, and as 'Czar' claimed ancestry back through the emperors of Rome and Byzantium to biblical times. Because of the accommodation of the Greek Orthodox Church with Rome and the fall of Byzantium, Ivan was also the head of the one remaining 'true' church and was seen as God on earth.

Wracked by grief Ivan continued to exert total power over his court - and to pursue his laughable quest for an English wife. The play depicts his lusts, his fears, the terrible illness of his last days - and the machinations for power - or merely for survival - of those around him. Did Ivan die, or was he murdered?

The play has been adapted by Eunice Cruickshank from 'The Death of Ivan the Terrible' written 1866 - 69 by Count Alexis Tolstoy. The Death of Ivan the Terrible was the first play in a trilogy written by Tolstoy. It was translated into blank verse in English by Alfred Hayes, and published in 1924. Though over shadowed by the work of Count Leo Tolstoy, the trilogy has been described as the finest European drama outside Shakespeare.

The Thurso Players version contains new scenes and characters, emphasising the English connection, but all still based on historical accounts from the time. The picture of Ivan that emerges is more intimate - and less flattering.

The play runs from 21st to 23rd March starting at 8.00pm each evening. Tickets will be priced at 7.00 and 5.00 and bookings can be made by calling Thurso 896956.


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