|Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress|
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Date premiered||21 January, 1918|
|Place premiered||Coliseum Theatre|
|Subject||A princess becomes a revolutionary|
|Genre||comedy of ideas|
|Setting||A General's office in Boetia|
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress: A Revolutionary Romancelet is a one-act play by George Bernard Shaw, written in 1917.
A one-act play is a play that has only one act, as distinct from plays that occur over several acts. One-act plays may consist of one or more scenes. In recent years, the 10-minute play has emerged as a popular subgenre of the one-act play, especially in writing competitions. The origin of the one-act play may be traced to the very beginning of drama: in ancient Greece, Cyclops, a satyr play by Euripides, is an early example.
George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
The play is obviously influenced by the Russian Revolution that year. It takes place in an imaginary country which has recently experienced a similar revolution. The two main characters are the daughter of the ruler, who once ran away to join the circus as a girl, and now supports the revolution, and an army officer who opposes it.
The Russian Revolution was a pair of revolutions in Russia in 1917 which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union. The Russian Empire collapsed with the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917. Alongside it arose grassroots community assemblies which contended for authority. In the second revolution that October, the Provisional Government was toppled and all power was given to the Soviets.
General Strammfest, whose family has served the Panjandrums of Beotia for 700 years is unhappy about working for the new, very unstable, revolutionary government. He can't make up his mind whether to send his reports to the provisional government or one of the competing factions: "Maximillianists" or the "Oppidoshavians". He hopes to restore the old regime. He soon learns that Grand Duchess Annajanska, the beautiful daughter of the Panjandrum, has escaped from the palace to which the royal family have been confined. Reports state that she has eloped with an officer. Who is this man and what are their plans?
News arrives that the Duchess has been captured, but not her lover. Annajanska enters, adopting the haughty air of a princess. The general questions her about the elopement, but she denies it ever happened. The General is concerned that her lover intends to start his own faction, but what is it? Annajanska asks to speak to him in private, but he refuses. She contemptuously ignores him, produces a revolver, and forces everyone else to leave at gunpoint. She tells the General to abandon his counter-revolutionary dreams. She wants no more Panjandrums. Attachment to the old regime is just keeping the people in thralldom. He should work for their liberation. Strammfest argues that revolutions typically create more oppression, not less. The Duchess says that the people will have to be forced to be free. New leaders will arise who will push things forward. She wants a new energy to be unleashed, saying "I am for anything that will make the world less like a prison and more like a circus." She would happily appear on stage as the "Bolshevik Empress". As for suggestion that she eloped with an officer - she opens her cloak to reveal a military uniform underneath. She is the mystery officer herself.
It was first produced on 21 January, 1918 at the Coliseum Theatre. It was originally described as a translation of the work of an imaginary Russian writer called Gregory Biessipoff: "Annajanska, the Wild Duchess, play in one act from the Russian of Gregory Biessipoff".The lead role was played by Lillah McCarthy. The "wonderful white uniform" she theatrically unveils at the end of the play was designed by Charles Ricketts.
Lillah Emma McCarthy was an English actress and theatrical manager.
Charles de Sousy Ricketts was a versatile English artist, illustrator, author and printer, and is best known for his work as book designer and typographer from 1896 to 1904 with the Vale Press, and his work in the theatre as a set and costume designer.
J.W. Hulse argues that Shaw's work always implies a tension between the writer's reformist and anarchist tendencies. His Fabianism was disturbed by Bolshevik radicalism, while his anarchic side looked forward to the wildness of revolution. Gareth Griffith says that though Shaw portrays both pro and anti-revolutionary views, the play is clearly pro-revolution. He argues that "Shaw's letters from the period do not suggest he feared a Bolshevik victory and, though the play does affirm the challenge of revolution, that affirmation was far from straightforward."
The play is set in "Boetia", a term for a province of ancient Greece proverbial for the stupidity of its inhabitants, a meaning that was common in English at the time the play was written.
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a Russian lawyer and revolutionist who was a key political figure in the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the February Revolution of 1917, he joined the newly formed Russian Provisional Government, first as Minister of Justice, then as Minister of War, and after July as the government's second Minister-Chairman. A leader of the moderate-socialist Trudoviks faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, he was also vice-chairman of the powerful Petrograd Soviet. On 7 November, his government was overthrown by the Lenin-led Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. He spent the remainder of his life in exile, in Paris and New York City, and worked for the Hoover Institution.
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Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was born Marie Alexandrine Elisabeth Eleonore of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, daughter of Grand Duke Frederick Francis II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Augusta Reuss of Köstritz. A prominent hostess in St Petersburg following her marriage to the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, she was known as the grandest of the grand duchesses and had an open rivalry with her sister-in-law the Empress Maria Feodorovna.
Getting Married is a play by George Bernard Shaw. First performed in 1908, it features a cast of family members who gather together for a marriage. The play analyses and satirises the status of marriage in Shaw's day, with a particular focus on the necessity of liberalising divorce laws.
Prince Vasili Alexandrovich of Russia was the sixth son and youngest child of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia and Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia. He was a nephew of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky was the second husband of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia, the sister of Tsar Nicholas II and daughter of Tsar Alexander III.
The left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks were a series of rebellions, uprisings, and revolts against the Bolsheviks by oppositional left-wing organizations and groups that started soon after the October Revolution, continued through the years of the Russian Civil War, and lasted into the first years of Bolshevik reign of the Soviet Union. They were led or supported by left-wing groups such as some factions of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and anarchists. Generally, the uprisings began in 1918 because of the Bolshevik siege and cooptation of Soviet Democracy, the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litvosk which many saw as giving huge concessions to the Central Powers, and opposition to Bolshevik socioeconomic policy. The Bolsheviks grew increasingly hard-line during the decisive and brutal years following the October Revolution, and would suppress any socialist opposition whilst also becoming increasingly hostile to inner-party opposition. These rebellions and insurrections occurred mostly during and after the Russian Civil War, until approximately 1924.
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On the Rocks: A political Comedy (1932) is a play by George Bernard Shaw which deals with the social crisis of the Great Depression. The entire play is set in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street. It is noted for its evidence of Shaw's political evolution towards apparent support for dictatorship.
Press Cuttings (1909), subtitled "A Topical Sketch Compiled from the Editorial and Correspondence Columns of the Daily Papers" is a play by George Bernard Shaw. It is a farcical comedy about the suffragettes' campaign for votes for women in Britain. The play is a departure from Shaw's earlier Ibsenesque dramas on social issues. Shaw's own pro-feminist views are never articulated by characters in the play, but instead it ridicules the arguments of the anti-suffrage campaigners.