his is Richard Herring’s 23rd Edinburgh Festival this year and as well as his one-man
stand-up show ‘Lord of the Dance Settee’ he also has the play ‘I Killed Rasputin’ at the
Fringe. During ‘Lord of the Dance Settee’ Mr Herring tells the audience how much it costs
to put on a play in Edinburgh during the Festival and so Darkchat decided to support this
brave venture by trekking through the rain to the Assembly George Square. The temperature
of the auditorium was reminiscent of the icy Russian steppes and combined with some
balalaika music set the tone for the strange tale of Russian Prince Felix Yusupov who became
something of a celebrity in the 1920s after writing about his role in Rasputin’s assassination
(or murder depending on your point of view) which was subsequently the subject of a
The piece is set in Paris in the 1960s where the ageing Prince lives the life of an exile in fading splendour with his wife, Princess Irina, his faithful dog (an opportunity for some excellent puppetry) and eccentric staff. An American journalist, EM Halliday, is granted an interview with the Prince and the imagined dialogue between the journalist and the self-confessed assassin forms the basis for the play. It soon becomes evident that the journalist has his own theories about the events that lead to the death of Rasputin and the purpose of his visit is to unravel the truth.
As would be expected in a play by Richard Herring, there is plenty of humour and for that reason alone it would be a delightful way to spend an afternoon. However there is more to this play than jokes about epaulettes and the follies of the Russian aristocracy. There are some genuinely touching moments, especially when the Princess (beautifully played by Eileen Nicholas) explains to the journalist why she agreed to marry the Prince and when Yusupov looks back on his early life when, despite his immense wealth, he was trapped by convention and the expectations of his family. The interaction between the Prince and the journalist is central to the play and Nicola McAulliffe, in a surprising bit of casting perhaps, gives a faultless performance as the Prince, as does Joseph Chance as EM Halliday.
On the night Darkchat attended, the play over-ran and it did at times feel that some of the pantomime-style appearances of historical figures which punctuated the piece were superfluous as the central characters present in the flat were sufficient to hold the audience's attention.
We hope that Mr Herrings theatrical gamble does pay off as the play deserves a life beyond Edinburgh.