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Smile Upon Us, Lord

Vakhtangov State Academic Theatre of Russia

A photo of men moving rocks. They are physically strained by this.

‘Tableaux of striking beauty and grace’ (New York Times) are a hallmark of this epic, sweeping production in which the perilous pilgrimage of three everyday men conveys a universal human story.

Efraim, an elderly stonecutter, journeys from his shtetl to Vilnius when he learns his son is awaiting trial for the attempted assassination of the governor-general there. Accompanied by his compatriots, they face calamitous setbacks on the way to their ‘promised land’.

Adapted from two novels by Lithuanian-born writer Grigory Kanovich, Smile Upon Us, Lord features an all-star Russian cast, with the 40-plus ensemble led by Vakhtangov’s esteemed Artistic Director Rimas Tuminas. At times fantastical and dreamlike, at others expressive and skilfully comic, the image-rich drama illuminates the Jewish experience in the first half of the 20th century while speaking of love and compassion for mankind. The company’s last visit here was with their sell-out, five-star Eugene Onegin in 2015.

Tagged with: Theatre & dance

3 hours 20 mins/including an interval

Age guidance 14+

Performed in Russian with English surtitles


See our Afternoon Arts: Stage Russia cinema screenings, including Vakhtangov’s irresistible productions of Eugene Onegin and Anna Karenina, this autumn. See below for more information.

Presented by the Barbican 

Tour produced by Oksana Nemchuk in association with ArtsBridge


‘A dark, sorrowful lament with moments of piercing and poetic imagery‘
‘A first-rate troupe‘
‘Tableaux of striking beauty and grace‘


a photo of three actors in the play Smile Upon Us Lord

Watch: Smile upon Us, Lord trailer


Fantastical and dreamlike, expressive and skilfully comic, Vakhtangov's 'Smile upon Us, Lord' explores the Jewish experience in the first half of the 20th century.

Barbican Theatre