"Power corrupts, plus ça change..."
by Rebecca Wall for remotegoat on 14/11/17

Written in 1929' 'The Bathhouse' by Mayakovsky is a Khafkaesque satire criticising the bureaucracy and corruption of Soviet Russia. Chudakov, the play's somewhat pathetic protagonist, has created the world's first time machine, but before he can share his achievement he must first obtain a stamp of approval from the Party, and its representative, the pompous and self-absorbed Pobedonosikov. If gaining an audience is difficult for Chudakov, it certainly is not for the Phosphorescent Woman, sent from the year 2030 by the Institute for the Study of the History of Communism, with the purpose of transporting those who wish to go into the glorious future (a mission for which Pobedonosikov is more than happy to volunteer).

As we approach that date in our own time, it is bleakly ironic how little so many of the foibles of human nature satirised by the play have changed: power corrupts, husbands are unfaithful to their wives, and inappropriate towards their secretaries, while paradise will always exist in the not too distant future.

Occasionally baffling, but with moments of comic brilliance, ‘The Bathhouse’ is both entertaining and intriguing. The world that it describes is both familiar to our own and sufficiently distant to make me want to learn more about the play’s inception, and its author’s life and times. Well worth a trip to The Cut, and to the charming Calder Booksho.

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