Helena Kaut-Howson on Faithful Ruslan - The Story of a Guard Dog

Posted on 5 June 2017

Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog will be our landmark production to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Belgrade’s B2 auditorium and mark the centenary year of the Russian Revolution. Here, Director Helena Kaut-Howson explains a little more about this brand new and adventurous drama.

The story is based on a real incident reported in papers of the time and which Vladimov developed in his award winning novella. When after the death of Stalin a limited political amnesty was announced and several prison camps in the Gulag dissolved, the guards were demobilized, and most but not all of the guard dogs unsuited to any other job shot. Packs of dogs were seen patrolling the streets of the local settlement and gathering at the platform of the train station as if in anticipation of a new transport of prisoners. An unexpected arrival of a work party to clear the prison camp ended in a horrific bloodbath and the destruction of the dogs.

Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog is the story of a beautiful and loyal guard dog told from his perspective. Having narrowly escaped death from the hand of his beloved master, Ruslan is freed into the world that doesn’t respect the rules of his previous regime; but these rules are all Ruslan has and hangs on to with grim determination.

Taught not to accept food from anyone but his master, Ruslan survives on mouthfuls of snow and the odd hunted mouse. He watches in disgust as other colleagues in the service sneak off to be fed and taken in by civilian owners, but he remains steadfast. When he finally understands his master has betrayed him, the proud, eager dog forms an allegiance with “the Shabby Man”, an ex-prisoner who may think he is Ruslan’s new owner, but it is Ruslan who is guarding him until the Service returns and he can escort him back to the labour camp.

While he waits, the past unfolds before him in a series of flashbacks, revealing the cruel mechanism by which the system Ruslan considered as perfect enslaved and manipulated its subjects. However the insight does not shake his faith nor prevent the catastrophe which is as unavoidable as in a Greek tragedy. Subtle and multilayered, the story is shot with dark humour and profound compassion.

Faithful Ruslan – The Story of a Guard Dog takes to the B2 stage between Sat 2 – Sat 16 Sept and tickets are available now, priced from £13.50. Book now by calling the theatre’s friendly box office team on 024 7655 3055 or book online for even cheaper tickets at where no booking fees apply.