by Aleksey Scherbak.

Royal Court (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs) Sloane Square SW1W 8AS To 16 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45; Mat Sat & 14 April 3pm.
Captioned 12 April.
Post-show Talk 29 March.
Runs 1 hr 30min No interval.

TICKETS 020 7565 -5000.
Review: Carole Woddis 23 March.

Vivid account of the impact of history.
History has a long arm, particularly in Europe. Aleksey Scherbak’s powerful, provocative Remembrance Day – part of the Royal Court’s 15th International Season – doesn’t so much celebrate as mourn that fact.

Given the number of post-Soviet countries who have recently joined the EU, Scherbak’s Latvian drama is a timely reminder of the issues now tearing some of these post-Soviet countries apart. And the constant threat of fascism.

European national borders have often been fluid, but since the demise of communism national identity has clearly taken on even greater complexity.

Subject to Sovietisation, then over-run by the Nazis before being re-incorporated into the Soviet Union, now finally an independent state, Scherbak gives us a glimpse of the difficulties for Latvia as a country still deeply scarred by legacies of the Second World War and in danger of breeding extremists in its inability to lay its history to rest.

Remembrance Day starts from the annual day celebrating Nazi-supporting Latvians as `heroes’ whilst Latvian Russian veterans, who actually `liberated’ Latvia from the Nazis, are now regarded as second class citizens.

Scherbak, in Rory Mullarkey’s translation and Michael Longhurst’s fast-paced production within Tom Scutt’s cold, impersonal interior, takes three neighbours – a Russian-Latvian family, a Nazi veteran and a Russian one – and shows how history impacts on each of them when the Russian-Latvian father attempts to publically introduce a reconciliatory tone – an act that pushes his daughter to the brink of extremism.

A sobering and frighteningly topical vision – Anya, the daughter in question ends by threatening to immolate herself whilst young fascists are alive and well in modern Latvia – Scherbak is stronger on structure than dialogue which at times feels truncated, incomplete.

All the same, there are some memorable lines especially from the father’s young son, Lyosha when he talks of how in a globalised, internet world national borders no longer exist – “Imagine it: the whole of Latvia speaking Spanish.” – whilst Ewan Hooper delivers a beautifully sardonic account of the absurdity of hardline loyalties as Valdis, a driver who found himself commandeered by both sides during the war.

Boris: Luke Norris.
Anya: Ruby Bentall.
Sasha: Michael Nardone.
Lyosha: Iwan Rheon.
Sveta: Michelle Fairley.
Misha: Struan Rodger.
Valdis: Ewan Hooper.
Paulis: Sam Kelly.
Gint: Nick Court.

Director: Michael Longhurst.
Designer: Tom Scutt.
Lighting: David Holmes.
Sound/Music: Ben & Max Ringham.
Fight director: Bret Yount.
Assistant director: Jacqui Honess-Martin.

Remembrance Day opened at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs on 18 March 2011 and is supported by the Genesis Foundation.

2011-03-28 00:40:03

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