THE RUSSIAN SOCTOR: Andrew Dawson, Martin Lloyd-Evans
Birmingham Rep: The Door
Runs: 1h 25m, no interval, till 13 September
Tkts: 0121 236 4455
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 11 September 2014
Interesting, informative, moving, though a bit of distance to go.
Andrew Dawson, in his one-man show THE RUSSIAN DOCTOR sets out to let us know of Chekhov’s journey across Siberia to the Siberian prison island, Sakhalin. Chekhov’s astonishing census and treatment of the 10 thousand prisoners, exiles, overseers, wives and children is remarkable for its scope, detail and its humanity. Detailing the almost unspeakable horrors, Chekhov manages to touch our souls; in much the same way he touches our souls with his great plays – at this time, yet to be written.
Dawson fuses direct address, projections, movement, an atmospheric score and short, recorded, extracts from Chekhov’s account spoken by a wide range of people.
Dawson’s direct address moments are moving; free from artifice they make an immediate connection with us. The recorded extracts are emotionally shattering. Jonny Pitcher and Ewan Campbell’s score underpins the whole. Moments of ghastliness are here aplenty, but so, too, are moments of humane beauty and sometimes dark comedy.
You are as staggered at man’s ability to create such a world as you are at another man’s ability to survive in it.
Less successful in this intense and personal story, are Dawson’s moments of movement; it is often not clear what is going on and it seems, sometimes, as if the performer is stretched beyond his skills. They do, however, provide important moments of reflection.
It is reasonably well-known that Chekhov was a doctor; some may know of his prison visit. But few of us will know (until now) the true nature of it. It adds another level of intriguing meaning to the handful of great plays that shifted the development of our theatre.
Performer: Andrew Dawson
Director: Martin Lloyd-evans
Text / Dramaturgy: Stephanie Fleishmann
Music: Jonny Pitcher, Ewan Campbell
Lighting Design: Jack Knowles
Design Consultant: Vicki Mortimer
Projection Design: Leo Warner for 59 Productions