Nightlands is a new play where Russian imperial illusions and youthful optimism clash on the eve of Putin’s presidency.
A vital psychological thriller from Scotland’s leading touring company Dogstar and the debut work from young playwright and director Jack MacGregor.
Nightlands is a dislocated environmental thriller which takes place in the extraordinary ex-Soviet ghost town of Pyramiden on the Svalbard Archipelago during a ferocious Arctic winter. Set in 1999 in the twilight of a decade of capitalist chaos in Russia and the dawn of the Putin autocracy, the ghost town’s caretakers, an old man and a young woman, play out a generational conflict. Slava and Sasha are antagonistic representatives of opposing world views, he nostalgic for the collapsed communist past, she embracing the possibilities of the new world order. But as the Polar Night and its storms close in on them, they are forced to acknowledge both their need for and their rejection of each other. Nightlands is a powerful metaphor for hubris and self-destruction in the face of mighty natural forces.
Describing the play and the inspiration behind it Jack MacGregor, playwright said :
“Nightlands is a response to the weaponisation of memories. Three decades ago the collapse of the Soviet Union created a cultural fracture that has since sparked new conflicts and given rise to new tyrants. These autocrats use the dissolution of the USSR as both the reason for their existence and a justification for their absolute power. In the Russian Federation today, ordinary feelings of nostalgia for an older way of living have been co-opted by a ruler to fuel a war of conquest. When I wrote this play in the autumn of 2020 I did so to make a point about the politicisation of nostalgia – how it can happen anywhere – combined with the effects of austerity on national identity, as was the case in 1990s Russia. It is these two elements, I believe, that can destroy the democratic institutions of a country; a twisted view of its own history and a population traumatised by economic depression. These were the conditions necessary for Vladimir Putin’s rise to power, and it is what sustains the Putinist project. The empty promise of this dictator is symbolised by Pyramiden, an abandoned monument to communism now maintained for solely geopolitical purposes.”
The cast of Nightlands are award winning actor and director Matthew Zajac (The Tailor of Inverness) as Sasha and Rebecca Wilkie (Neverland) as Slava.