By Natal’ya Vorozhblt
Translated by Sasha Dugdale.
Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to 23 December 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 1hr 40 mins No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7565 5000.
Review: William Russell 22 November.
Harrowing tales of a forgotten war
The action takes place during the war in Ukraine and follows what happens to several women who either survive or are transformed by their experiences. It starts off with what is virtually a monologue delivered by Woman played by Kate Dickie, after which we get a series of encounters, some savagely comic, some terrifyingly brutal as the women we meet face up to the soldiers who treat them as so much meat to be abused, used and killed. Not that the women are all passive in the face of their abusers.
They too can kill.
There is a striking set of leafless trees in a desolate wasteland. Beneath them lie the detritus of war – a bath, a deep freeze, some abandoned chairs. As a play Bad Roads is a thing of shreds and patches, an almost random collection of dramatised anecdotes. That opening monologue does go on a bit. Kate Dickie delivers it splendidly, but the interruptions by actors using a microphone are far from clear. The cumulative effect as the other playlets follow is undeniably powerful and brings home the horrors of the front line, the dangers faced by those caught up in the battles and the depths people sink to in order to survive.
Perhaps the most chilling playlet is the assault on one woman in total blackness, although the final tale in which two peasants con a motorist who has killed a chicken packs quite a kick in the teeth. That dead bird is worth more than a dead person. Brecht would have approved.
Director Vicky Featherstone has staged the piece seamlessly, securing fine performances from her cast but it remains too much of a patchwork affair to succeed as a coherent play. It could just be that the war that binds it all together is no longer in the headlines – the world has moved on to other conflicts.
Girl 3/Woman: Ronke Adekoluejo.
Woman/Girl 2: Kate Dickie.
Headteacher/Vasya: Vincent Ebrahim.
Woman 1/Vasya’s wife: Anne Lacey.
Soldier1/ He: Tadhg Murphy.
Commander/Soldier 2: Mike Noble.
Girl 1/She: Ria Zmitrowicz.
Director: Vicky Featherstone.
Designer: Camilla Clarke.
Lighting Designer: Natasha Chivers.
Music& Sound Designer: Nick Powell.
Costume Supervisor: Gina Lee.