A collaboration between Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre, Fittings Multimedia Arts and Tron Theatre, this Russian piece written by Semyon Zlotnikov, finally receiving its world premiere after its long-term suppression by the state, is part romantic whimsy, part scabrous satire on the impossibillity of communication between a would-be couple, with all of the requisite baggage and suspicion that accompanies mid-life; a kind of Adam And Eve: Version 2.0 if you will.
Visually arresting, Jessica Brettle’s set looks like Jackson Pollock run amok in Hollywood, featuring an abstract backdrop filled with over twenty umbrellas from which Dina (Muireann Kelly) emerges, transforming from dowdy washerwoman to striking redhead in a kimono dress. Dina ‘s ritual of preparing for her date is beautifully choreographed, a dance that is tentative yet aware of its own sexual potency.
Dance and sound features heavily, the arrival of dapper gentleman Victor (Garry Robson) yielding a pas de deux to the theme from Love Story which is both moving and absurd, Victor taking Dina’s hand as he elegantly glides in his wheelchair, before her exaggerated gestures of femininity tickle theatre’s sentimental tropes of emotional manipulation. Russian state radio has Mozart purring in the background like a pacifier, but this is short-lived when the neighbours bash the walls as the pair sing to each other. Movement in general is indeed a vital component within the design- even the curtains close with balletic timing. Unfortunately, at one point, Kelly crashes to the floor as she dances, but recovers with great composure.
Densely scripted, Dina’s neuroses complements Victor’s sweetness, his passivity and loneliness symbolised by a lost shoe. Dina’s bitterness is perhaps understandable as she is a woman with her own demons, but as the narrative progresses she dominates Victor in a way that becomes almost uncomfortable to watch, taking first his wrist-watch, binding his wrists and feet and then attacking his every utterance. She wants everything on her own terms, without compromise- her reaction to taking Victor’s hat is hilarious, realising with horror he is almost entirely bald.
A wry humour cuts through the existential melancholy, Dina questioning why men always want to talk at length about death instead of just living each moment. Both Kelly and Robson are wonderful, Dina’s volcanic temper pushing Victor’s teddy bear -like disposition and patience to the limit, and they are well matched in expression, wit and pathos.
The second half is sadly, less satisfying, with an increasing focus on a battle of the sexes that is cliched and somewhat predictable in its execution, but there is much to admire, not least Kelly’s stoical performance in the face of injury , which can only be applauded: navigating through love’s littered pathway is tough enough, but it’s much worse in floaty 70s polyester.