Max is a part of the Oxford University Dramatic Society. He has just been awarded a first-class degree in History at Queen’s College, Oxford. He first came to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007 with ‘Danton’s Death’, and returns this year with an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. He has co-adapted the play with Raymond Blankenhorn, and also directed and acts in the work.
In Master and Margarita you play the Devil, what attracted you to the role?
The Devil in Master and margarita has one of the most famous openings in Russian literature. He’s full of wit, charm and flair. In other scenes he evolves into a grander, Milton-esque figure. Capturing the different parts he plays in the book while preserving a recognisable charisma has been one of the main challenges.
Jesus, Satan, and Pilate are the main characters in the play. How did your perception of these figures change over the course of adapting, rehearsing, and performing the play?
Jesus, Satan and Pilate are hugely important because we all have our own preconceptions about what they’re like. Bulgakov gives each of them a different, surprising twist. In casting and rehearsals I was keen to avoid any slide towards traditional portrayals of these characters. Pilate in Soviet uniform was an interpretive decision to suggest a link between Bulgakov’s Jerusalem and the Stalinist world and to avoid any iconographic spin on the scene.
You have adapted, directed, and are acting in the play. What did you gain from the experience?
Directing, acting and co-adapting the play has meant I’ve really invested a huge amount in it and that has helped me to be committed heart and soul to the project. It’s not something I’d repeat in the professional world but for the fringe you can just about get away with it.
What would you say to a young person about the Oxford University Dramatic Society’s Master and Margarita to encourage them to see it?
The production of Master and Margarita stays faithful to the spirit and complexity of the novel while also presenting it in as imaginative a way as possible to make it engaging for those who don’t know the book. We’ve toured Oxford and London to full houses and a lot of positive feedback, particularly from Russians. I think it’s a vibrant engaging story that deserves to be seen.
What other play at the Edinburgh fringe have you seen that you would recommend?
That’s easy, Derevo at the Pleasance is a Russian show by a company Harlekin and is by far the most powerful thing I’ve seen so far. Its combination of dance, mime, and circus tells a simple set of stories with great beauty and heart.
Master and Margarita, at the Edinburgh Fringe, runs from 16 August till 30 August.