inspired by The Lady with the Dog by Anton Chekhov and Sunstroke by Ivan Bunin.
Platform Theatre Central St Martins College Handyside Street King’s Cross N1C 4AA To 21 September 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 September.
Atmospheric combination of stories well-matched if not a perfect fit.
Though born in 1870, only ten years after his better-known compatriot Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin lived till 1953, dying in the same year as Joseph Stalin. The writer and the dictator wouldn’t have got on, and Bunin sensibly lived most of his post-Revolutionary life in France.
The volume of stories containing ‘Sunstroke’ appeared in 1927, yet it is redolent of the same 19th-century world as Chekhov’s famous story. They are holiday romances that strike deep; certainly in this theatre-piece, which combines – and juxtaposes – them in a new performance space at the very back of the new King’s Cross development.
Oleg Mirochnikov’s production isn’t for those who like their stories express. But it’s just the thing for those who enjoy the slow train and stopping-off to soak-up atmosphere.
Surrounded by mountains and water redolent of a south Russian holiday resort, sand covers the performance area. Skeletal balconies either end form the only evidence of human existence. Sunstroke is suffused with a sense of transience, emphasised as a Japanese dancer frames and punctuates the action with abstract choreography; her final flowering radiance followed by a sudden shrivelling-up forms a particularly striking emblem of love’s sudden joy and brevity as the first, and longer, act ends.
The sense of evanescence remains despite Chekhov’s references to a more solid life – Gurov, having moved from philandering to passion, seeks Anna Sergeyevna out in her home town finding her at a performance of ‘The Geisha’, which brings Masumi Saito’s dancing into the story.
Unlike these two, Bunin’s characters have no name, and it’s a feature of the combination of sources that ‘Sunstroke’ itself gives out while Chekhov’s story has some way to go, making Katia Elizarova and Oliver King’s presence after the interval a matter of appearance rather than events.
Both women appear first as visions behind the semi-transparent walls, while Elizarova’s initially playful Woman contrasts Rosy Benjamin’s reserved Anna, a phantom of delight as against someone with a definite place in society. Both performances are persuasive as, among the shifting sands and distant projected landscape, they persuasively help create this piece of sustained theatrical mood-music.
Anna Sergeyevna: Rosy Benjamin.
Woman: Katia Elizarova.
Lieutenant: Oliver King.
Dmitri Gurov: Stephen Pucci.
Dancer: Masumi Saito.
Director: Oleg Mirochnikov.
Co-director/Movement: Liana Nyquist.
Designer: Agnes Treplin.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Michael Umney.
Projections: Simon Eves.
Associate director: Sophia Stocco.