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Music by Stephen Keeling

Book and lyrics by Peter Spafford



In lush forest in Western Siberia in 1932, a boy is found stabbed to death, his body covered in a sticky mixture of blood and cranberry juice.


The year before, Pavlik Morozov had been lauded as a local hero for informing on his own father to the Soviet State. In a packed courtroom, Pav’s beloved grandfather is convicted of murdering the boy out of revenge. Thousands of citizens all over the country demand the death penalty…


In death, Pavlik becomes a national hero, a demi-god, the subject of songs, an opera, even a film by Sergei Eisenstein. And his story is told and sung throughout the Soviet Union in Young Pioneer camps to encourage other children to inform on their parents. ‘The family is a bourgeois idea. The State is your family and Stalin your Father’. As Olya attests, ‘We needed heroes then, something to believe in’.


Olya was one of the young Pioneer Leaders who enthusiastically told Pav’s story. But now, nearly sixty years on, the Soviet Union has crumbled. New information about the reality of Pavlik and his brutal murder is coming to light which causes Olya, now a woman of 70, to look back at her life and face a terrible responsibility.


COMRADE PAV contrasts the transcendent myth of the Soviet Boy Hero with the messy reality of domestic passions and mob violence in a small town. In music that references Soviet choral music, Russian folk song and Prokofiev, COMRADE PAV shows an adolescent boy grappling with the realisation that an idolised father is not perfect after all, that a family is a Russian doll of nested secrets. And when he is offered local fame and a telegram from Moscow….


Is Pav just an innocent manipulated by adult forces for their own ends? Or is he complicit in his own demise? Who really killed Pavlik? And now, in 1992, as the ideals of The Revolution break down into brash consumerism, what is the secret Olya must finally reveal to her own daughter Marya? Must our ideals always be compromised by brute reality, or can we – must we – carry on believing?


N.B. This is a work in progress. Check back for updates.

Listen to Stephen's demo recording of Tell His Story below.

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