dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

A Little Hero review at White Bear Theatre, London – ‘radical but not convincing’

A Little Hero at the White Bear Theatre in London A Little Hero at the White Bear Theatre in London
by -

A Little Hero’s subversive power is contextually enormous. As it contains frank discussions of homosexuality, under Russia’s 2013 so-called ‘gay propaganda’ laws, the magazine it originally appeared in must be sold in a black plastic cover with a note announcing that it contains information unsuitable for under-18s.

Valeriy Pecheykin’s little hero, closeted homophobe Vovochka (Simon Stallard), leads a campaign against his gay neighbours as a young boy, with the result that they endure anonymous abuse and harassment. By the time he is a teenager, Vovochka is part of an anti-queer vigilante gang violently targeting gay men. Despite this, Vovochka is in love with his childhood friend Vanya (Max Baker), and is tortured by his desire.

John Turiano and Zhenya Pomerantsev have done their best with the translation, but Pecheykin’s awkward script putters between audience address, dialogue and characters narrating their own action. Bafflingly juvenile slapstick comedy stumbles against declamatory speeches that feel insincere despite the vitriol of their content. Occasional flashes of aching sadness spark against the grime, but the script is largely a strained gesture towards a hard reality. Even the neon graffiti, sprayed in an almost propless set, feels more like a Camden Town Banksy rip-off than urban tags.

Stallard, Baker and Shona Graham’s Lyuobochka suffer from having to play young children in an unworkably contrived script, though Jamie Foulkes and Tris Hobson fare much better as the couple whose lives are ruined by Vovochka’s machinations, imparting heart-rending poignancy to their love story. This English-language rescue of a suppressed play is an ethical triumph but unfortunately not a convincing production.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Bold and radical act of writing that sadly doesn’t translate into radical theatre
^