MOSCOW  - A bare-chested Vladimir Putin strokes the bottom of an Olympic gymnast and overdoses on Botox as his wife Lyudmila takes refuge in a monastery — in a new staging of a play at a Moscow theatre.

The play — staged ahead of March 4 polls where Putin is expected to win back the presidency — takes plenty of inspiration from Internet gossip and breaks almost every remaining taboo about the Russian leader’s personal life.

The play, “Berlusputin”, is a Russian adaptation of a work by Italian playwright Dario Fo called L’anomalo Bicefalo. But it is updated every performance to include the latest news.

The play imagines what might happen if half of former Italian prime minister and Putin buddy Silvio Berlusconi’s brain was transplanted into the Russian strongman’s head after an accident.

But true to Fo’s street theatre philosophy, the performance in Moscow at the ground-breaking Teatr.doc house in the centre of the city is very much a work in progress. People queued in the snow to catch two consecutive performances on Friday in the black-painted cellar theatre known for its hard-hitting political plays. The tiny, sweaty theatre was sold-out.

“This play is probably a producer’s dream. There’s only two roles and crazy interest in the play,” said director Varvara Faer.

The play’s absurd plot imagines that Berlusconi has died in an attack and Putin, injured, has been given a transplant of half his brain.

Unexpectedly, he reveals previously unseen liberal tendencies and even “repents” in front of the parliament. But then a Botox overdose has a reverse effect.