A DASHING FELLOW
adapted from short stories by Vladimir Nabokov by Rosy Benjamin and Ben Maier.
New Diorama 15-16 Triton Street Regent’s Place NW1 3BF To 17 May 2014.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 April.
A dream, treat, and delight.
Modern British theatre seems full of young troupes with endless imaginative energy in physical theatre. Those destined to stand out – including, on the basis of A Dashing Fellow, Belka Productions, – often pass through the New Diorama, a Grand Central Station for such work among the glass towers across from Warren Street underground.
Stations, and passing through, govern this adaptation from three stories by the future author of Lolita. Given that pedigree-to-come, it’s hardly surprising the search for sex looms large as a would-be terminus for lives in transition in 1920s Europe, where those displaced by the First World War or the Russian Revolution are only a timetable or two, we’re aware, ahead of crowds to come the following decade.
Vladimir Nabokov was no stranger to migration. His stories are about loss and love, even more than attempts to snatch sexual opportunities. Though trains have their destinations, the passengers here continue searching in a miasma where they can be within a few metres of each other yet kept separate amid swirling crowds.
A simple metal frame, revolved on its wheels, forms the trains as characters crowd on chairs placed as each scene requires. Objects take on significance without bringing solutions.
Russian Alexey, working on German railways, seeks cocaine he can’t afford, and his beloved Lena, succeeding only in losing her ring. An object many writers would use to bring characters together only emphasises the uncertainty of this world.
Peter Clements’s cross-dressed, sinister devil-figure has the bite of Cabaret’s Emcee and briefly becomes an émigré Russian princess bringing her own food for the journey to save money, when not serving as diabolic narrator manipulating the lives of the powerless, restless travellers.
Simon Eves’ production maintains this whirling world in the noise, confusion, separate destinations and individual concerns of people whose lives are in transit, while ensuring each story is clear. The one sexual encounter shown leaves a sense of powerless violation, registered by Madeleine Knight in stillness and traumatised features.
It forms one element in a powerful picture of love and loss, played with energy and precision by a uniformly fine ensemble.
Alexey Luzhin: Luke Courtier.
Lena Luzhin: Kate Craggs.
Erwin/Max Fuchs: Edward Cole.
Frau Monde: Peter Clements.
Konstantin: Joel Gorf.
Sonja Bergmann: Madeleine Knight.
Director: Simon Eves.
Designer: Agnes Treplin.
Lighting: Sarah McColgan.
Sound: Michael Umney.
Music: Rhys Lewis, Ben Maier, Luke Courtier.
Musical Director: Rhys Lewis.
Movement: Liana Nyquist.
Assistant director: Charlie Ely.