*** Strengths and weaknesses in this tale of young Soviet folk
The first act, set during the siege of Leningrad, has a great minimal power; the second, years later, lapses into Russian portentousness.
Two teenagers, each either separated from their family or orphaned, take refuge from the bombs and bullets in the same room of a Leningrad apartment building during the long, cold winter siege of 1942; they are joined by a third, who stumbles in, feverish, and is nursed back to health. This phase of Alexei Arbuzov's play (in a new version by Nick Dear), is simple and potent, in terms both of the brutal necessities of the world around the characters (emphasised by video montages of the city under siege) and of their own not quite articulated feelings.
After the interval, after the war, we see the characters reunite; Lika must make her choice between heroic but tightly buttoned Marat and outgoing but ineffectual Leonidik. She chooses the latter, and Marat disappears for a dozen years. This part of the play is all Russian soul-searching, discussion of grand abstract concepts and never quite of their own hearts. After the initial hope for the future of Soviet youth, it's a dramatic as well as an emotional let-down. Jenny Jules and Paul Nicholls give strong performances as Lika and Marat, but it's an increasingly steep uphill struggle for them.
Written for divento.com
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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