Written by Valeriy Pecheykin, A Little Hero may never be staged in his native Russia due to a 2013 law banning distribution of propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors. So it’s to director Charlotte Evans’ and assistant director Chalice Bhardwaj’s credit that this piece of wonderful writing – newly translated by John Turiano and Zhenya Pomerantsev – gets to be seen at all.
There is a real need for this play to be staged as it exposes hypocrisy and highlights the homophobia which is rife in Putin’s Russia. Reporting people is firmly encouraged by the Russian state and out of that fervent indoctrination comes fanatical behaviour.
This is a very powerful play and totally absorbing with Pecheykin going to great lengths to bring to our attention that if violence is all you have known then that is probably the only way you think you can cure any problems; that abuse becomes systematic. People get trapped in a cycle of being angry all the time. In Putin’s Russia there is ignorance and lack of education where most straight people think that all homosexuals are also paedophiles.
This may be a bit extreme but this also draws focus on the stupidity and the banality of the Russia of today. As a cast the ensemble energy is tight but the tour de force comes from Simon Stallard, pictured top as Vovochka, part narrator and main protagonist. The story is his acceptance of his own sexuality conflicting with his need to victimise others. The speed of the play is at full throttle. It is good to realise that the comedy elements of the play and the actual beauty of the dialogue have not been lost in translation. Truly contemporary theatre with a very strong message and an electrifying pulse. Full of energy.