Fraser has Kalashnikov in his sights for new play

Published: 9 September 2011 at 15:34

Anglia Ruskin lecturer and playwright examines the life of AK47 inventor

Kalashnikov, in the woods by the lake, the new play by acclaimed writer Fraser Grace, will be visiting Cambridge at the end of October.

Fraser, who teaches playwriting at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, shot to fame as the author of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s West End hit Breakfast with Mugabe and is currently writing an opera which is being developed with the Royal Opera House.

His new work is a darkly comic drama exploring the life of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who invented the AK47 assault rifle during the Second World War.

In Kalashnikov, in the woods by the lake, elderly Mikhail’s tranquillity is disturbed by a young journalist, who visits him to ask about his time on the front line and the weapon that bears his name.

With the help of his daughter and granddaughter, Kalashnikov initially welcomes the journalist into his home. But as the questions harden and ambiguities appear in Kalashnikov’s recollections, some painful truths emerge and the play asks whether anyone can truly be responsible for all they bring into the world?

Fraser said:

“The AK47 is one of the most instantly recognised – and most numerous – weapons in the world and is the weapon of choice for freedom fighters, criminals and terrorists the world over.

“But it was originally conceived by Kalashnikov to help defend the Motherland against Nazi occupation. I was curious to know the secrets of the gun’s phenomenal success – if we can use that word – but also to ask award questions about moral responsibility.”

In July Fraser and director Helena Bell travelled, with the support of Arts Council East/Grant for the Arts, to visit the Kalashnikov Museum and to research the area where the play is set; near Kalashnikov’s home town of Izhevsk, 600 miles from Moscow. The production brings together a team of filmmakers and designers to recreate the dark woods of a fairy-tale Russian landscape using original footage shot in the forests around Izhevsk. 

Kalashnikov, in the woods by the lake will be visiting The Robinson Theatre at Hills Road College, Cambridge, on October 31 (7.30pm). For ticket information, contact the box office on 01223 278049. For full tour details visit

Reviews for Breakfast with Mugabe

 “...the piece cracks and pops with wit, but the humour sugar-coats a deadly seriousness ...The shock of the evening lies in Grace’s even-handedness” – Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph.

“...contains a dazzling number of vectors of political and psychological power-play” – Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times.

“...a brilliantly imagined journey...” – Mark Shenton, The Stage.