OPUS NO 7
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 14 June 2014.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.
(performances sold out. Returns only.)
TICKETS: 0845 120 7511.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 June.
Always inventive, and in its later stage vibrantly
Russian director Dmitry Krymov doesn’t do things by halves. His treatment of William Shakespeare’s ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ incorporates two Shakespearean titles. And this, far more sombre but equally invigorating, look at 20th-century victims of Russian governments considers, either side of its interval, Tsarist persecution of Jews and Soviet clampdowns on cultural freedom.
A first half uses ingenious visual ideas, including orthodox Jews whose lifesize photos come to life, or a massive wind blowing fragments of print across the floor and on to the audience sitting on part of the large Barbican stage (sealed-off from the regular auditorium as part of the London International Festival of Theatre’s shape-shifting programme). Such theatricality is part of Dmitry Krymov Lab’s style – it’s a company founded by a designer and where designers tend to rule.
For all the invention and sense of dramatic progression – black paint sloshed on the walls turn into the photos when negatives are held in the path of light, figures cut their way effortfully through the imprisoning wall backing the stage – the first act, called ‘Genealogy’, seems a theatrically original way of recreating a familiar picture of oppression.
The second act, ‘Shostakovitch’ goes further. We hear the composer’s music – principally the sharply ironic second Piano Trio (also glimpsed aurally in the first half) – as his recorded voice pipes-up at a Kremlin conference of Soviet composers, in a speech of apparent loyalty to the state. His continuous ambivalence is expressed in a sequence where the (in)famous repeated tune from his 7th symphony’s opening movement plays during a kind of piano dodgems; seven hollow, rusty metal pianos are wheeled clashing around the space. Panels depicting Soviet artists are danced off as a giant puppet, Mother Russia in a military hat, shoots them.
Shostakovitch is a small figure played by one of the women performers, hoisted off on a pole, then returning as a diminutive puppet trying to clamber over the huge puppet bosom of Mother Russia, ending smothered by her on the floor. Imaginative energy and oppressive force combine, recreating the enigmatic composer and the lasting terror of his life with startling invention.
Performers: Anna Sinyakina, Maria Smolnikova, Maxim Maminov, Mikhail Umanets, Maria Gulik, Natalia Gorchakova, Arkady Kirichenko, Vadim Dubrovin, Ekaterina Bakanova, Sergei Melkonyan.
Director: Dmitry Krymov.
Designers: Vera Martinova, Maria Tregubova.
Lighting: Alexey Mihalevskiy, Olga Ravvich, Anton Morozov.
Sound: Sergey Alexandrov.
Video: Alexander Shaposhnikov.
Costume: Irina Bakulina.
Puppets: Viktor Platonov.
Movement: Andrey Shchukin.
Vocal coach: Armen Pogosyan.