Recent Updates

Mailing List

Sign up with your email address to receive updates on our latest productions and events.


Arena Theatre presents John Hodge's


Directed by Paul Nelson with permission from Samuel French

Moscow, 1938. A dangerous place to have a sense of humour; even more so a sense of freedom. Mikhail Bulgakov, living among dissidents, stalked by secret police, has both. And then he's offered a poisoned chalice:a commission to write a play about Stalin to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. Inspired by historical fact, Collaborators embarks on a surreal journey into the fevered imagination of the writer as he loses himself in a macabre and disturbingly funny relationship with the omnipotent subject of his drama. Collaborators premiered at the National Theatre, London, in October 2011.

  • Performance Dates
  • There are no scheduled performances of this production.
Blog Updates
Paul Nelson - Cast List      11/03/2014

  Further to requests, please find below a list of characters for Collaborators.  Very brief age related information but this is neither hard nor fast.  Just need the right people for the parts.   Mikhail Bulgakov - playwright, late 40s / early 50s   Yelena - his wife and tower of strength, late 30s to early 50s   Vasilly - ex-aristo, sixty something or older   Praskovya - (man or woman) a teacher, 20s to 50s   Sergei - a young man, very loyal party member, idealistic.  Teens to early 20s   Grigory - young writer, holds Bulgakov as a hero.  Early 20s to 30s   Anna - an actress - 20s to 40s   Vladimir - NKVD officer (Secret Police), chirpy.  Late 20s through to 50s   Stepan - NKVD officer.  Real test for the actor as he has no lines but is in an awful lot of the play and provides a lot of the comedy.  Late 20s through to 50s   Doctor - pompous sexual deviant.  30s through to 70s   Two Actors - play as clowns (Men, women, both).  Have to be good character actors as they appear throughout as all the extra roles.  Very tempted to make Doctor one of their characters.  They will also play Man, Woman, Eva, Nurse, Two NKVD Officers, Driver, Cleaner, Doctors, Apothecaries, Moliere and Lagrange.   Joseph Stalin - a dictator, aged 59.  Make up and wig will be provided for this role.  
Paul Nelson - Auditions      03/05/2014

Read through for this production is on Monday 19 May, 7.30pm at Pokesdown Primary School. Auditions will be on Monday 26 May, 7.30pm at Pokesdown Primary School If you want to audition and can't make the dates then please contact on All you have to do is to turn up.  Experience doesn't matter.  There are no joining or audition fees.

Linda Kirkman

JOHN Hodge’s play is set in late 1930s Russia and concerns the relationship between writer Mikhail Bulgakov and Dictator Joseph Stalin.  It premiered at London’s National Theatre in 2011 and went on to win the 2012 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play. The plot – briefly – is that Bulgakov’s latest masterpiece has been banned, but the secret police tell him that if he will co-operate by writing a new play about the life of Stalin then the powers-that-be might reconsider their decision. Bulgakov is terrorised until he agrees to their demands, but finds that he is unable to find the words. A mysterious telephone call leads him to a room beneath the Kremlin where Stalin himself, a fan of Bulgakov, offers to write the play in exchange for help with his own state papers… I think the best way in which I can describe this play is to say that it is surreal and full of weird situations, perhaps the most peculiar being that people come and go through what seems to be a wardrobe, and one is never quite sure whether the events are real or simply in the ailing Bulgakov’s mind. There are moments of pure comedy yet there is the chill of knowing that the repression and tyranny depicted were all-too rife in Stalin’s Russia, with the excellent Soviet-style propaganda posters that dominate the set adding to the sinister feeling that pervades the evening. Paul Nelson’s production is outstanding, due in no small measure to an incredible tour-de-force from Brian Woolton, playing Mikhail Bulgakov. The actor originally playing the role was forced to withdraw for family reasons, so with just two weeks to go Brian took it on, learned 103 pages of script – the character is barely off the stage – and ended up giving a performance that suggested he had been playing it for his entire life. His pain became my pain as I felt his character’s agony. There is also a stunning characterisation from Justin Sellick as Stalin, looking uncannily like the man himself and easily depicting the coldly evil dictator behind a seemingly jovial exterior. A uniformly fine supporting cast includes stand-out performances from Lotte Fletcher Jonk (Bulgakov’s wife, Yelena), Stuart Muirs (Vladimir), Scott Sullivan (Doctor) and Jack Edwards (Grigory), all of whom bring complete naturalness to their characters.    The production, which most certainly enhances Arena’s already high reputation for quality, runs until Saturday at the Shelley.
Lyn Richell

COLLABORATORS – ARENA THEATRE – THE SHELLEY THEATRE, BOSCOMBE – 19.9.14   This play revolves around the fact that Mikhail Bulgakov, an author, is asked to write a play to celebrate Joseph Stalin’s 60thbirthday.  When Mikhail tells Stalin that he has writers block, Stalin decides to write the play himself while Mikhail runs the Soviet Union.   Arena Theatre already has an excellent reputation for producing some outstanding work and this play is no exception.  Everyone involved, from cast to backstage, was superb.  The sound and lighting, stage setting and especially the propaganda posters painted by Agnes Stevens all enhanced this fine production.   There were not any weak performances with everyone giving their all.  The slickness of the scene changes and the pace of the play all went to ensure the audience enjoyed every moment.   There were notable performances from Lotte Fletcher-Jonk as Yelena, Bogdan McHugh (Sergei), Sean Beaumont (Actor 1), and Jack Edwards (Grigory).  Stuart Muirs (Vladimir) was exceptional as Director and Secret Policeman, as was Scott Sullivan as the Doctor who gave us some of the best laughs in the play.   However, the top accolades must go to Justin Sellick as Joseph Stalin who was a bit too close for comfort to Stalin himself, and Brian Woolton as Mikhail Bulgakov who stepped into the role just two weeks before the performance.  These two portrayals were exceptional.   There are further performances tonight (Saturday, 20 September at the Shelley Theatre, Boscombe), and Saturday, 27 September at the Mowlem Theatre, Swanage both starting at 7.30pm
Home Mission Statement Our History Future Past Contact Us Gallery Links Admin