Bulgakov's masterpiece 'The Master and Margarita' comes alive on stage

Ma Yue
Chinese director Li Jianjun has adapted Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov's best-known novel "The Master and Margarita" into a play of the same name.
Ma Yue

Chinese director Li Jianjun has turned Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov's novel "The Master and Margarita" into a play, which will be staged at Theater Young next week.

The novel, written between 1928 and 1940, is about Satan and his entourage visiting the former Soviet Union. Satan challenges the religious views of the people of Moscow, which causes chaos in the city.

Li, however, focuses less on faith and more on the relationship between the Master, an embittered writer, and Margarita, his lover. After the Master goes missing, Margarita refuses to despair and give up on her lover. She turns into a witch, fights Satan, and rescues the Master.

"This is not a faithful adaptation because theater art is tied to the place and moment we live in," admitted Li. "After reading this romantic, creative and uplifting story, I was more impressed by Margarita's incredible courage and romantic qualities, which got my own imagination going."

"When you're in a desperate situation, the most important things are your courage, hope and determination. These are the things that touched me the most, and I'm sharing them with you."

Bulgakov started writing the book in 1928, but it wasn't released until 1966, 26 years after his death. It remains his best-known work.

He had to rewrite the book from memory after he burned the draft manuscript in 1930 due to political upheavals.

Bulgakov's masterpiece 'The Master and Margarita' comes alive on stage
Ti Gong

Li Jianjun's plays often incorporate live projections.

Li said that it would be hard to stage the imaginary descriptions in the novel but that he would add local elements to better connect with Chinese audiences.

Li's New Youth Group first staged the play at the Wuzhen Theater Festival in 2022. With the use of live projection and other stage paraphernalia, three primary narrative threads weave together the three worlds of reality, history and magic in this latest version.

Performance info:

Dates: August 11-12, 7pm; August 13, 2pm

Tickets: 180-580 yuan

Venue: Theater Young

Address: 1155 Kongjiang Rd, Yangpu District 杨浦区控江路1155号

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