EFR - Reviews of Babushka

Babushka

Thu 4th – Fri 26th August 2011

reviews

Joe Nicholson

at 00:34 on 8th Aug 2011

0agrees

0disagrees

Troupe’s press release for Babushka underlines how it is self-styled as an alternative to student drama: something new, something different. It certainly was the latter! The company seeks to create theatre which is innovative and free, and the audience is swept along with a lively production, although this ‘innovation’ frequently gave way to apparent disorganisation.

Departing from the vague concept of the traditional Babushka story with which I entered the auditorium, the performers managed to create a storyline which for the most part held its own as energetic and engaging with the audience. The narrative is based, in contrast to the folklore, on an old woman’s search for a painting which depicts her long-lost husband: the performance centering around the aforementioned portrait, which is merely a bare frame onstage. All of the props and costumes used in the performance are what the cast could find and devise scenes with, and they are certainly successful in uses of eclectic objects in inventive ways to create new settings. The lighting and music also lent much power to the production, having powerfully emotive effects whilst also supporting the sometimes vast leaps in characterisation of different actors, and the employment of more and more bizarre props. Both musicians accompanied the acting well, evoking moving scenes as well as tension in the appropriate places to the company’s credit.

Sophie Crawford’s Maria, the Babushka figure, is likeable and charismatic, the folklore element of the character no doubt reinforced by the choice made to script her lines in Russian, translated for the audience by Katherine Jack. There were some very witty episodes involving Deli Segal’s Natasha, the curator of the art gallery in which the painting is exhibited, whilst George Potts and musician-cum-show girl Jeff Carpenter provided hilarious and inventive scene-breaks. Nevertheless, many of the conceptions played out gave the performance the air of being disorganised at points. It became apparent that this confusion was affecting the audience when I was wondering whether a particular episode was planned, or by contrast a shaky improvisation: never a desirable question! I felt that the actors have potential in this production, and that their decisions with the devised theatre for the most part, went well, but the show seemed at times too chaotic in terms of both tone and narrative to fulfil what such an innovative concept could have offered.

agree
disagree

Ryan Sarsfield

at 08:53 on 8th Aug 2011

0agrees

0disagrees

Infectious stupidity is what comes to mind. Troupe claims ‘to do something different’, and that’s certainly the case.

‘Babushka’ is a devised piece and this rawness really comes through in the acting. Funded by the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatics Society, this make-shift fun ethos is felt throughout the performance but (mostly) without feeling amateurish. It’s full of caricatured and excessive acting with all actors constantly shifting character – there are over-the-top Russian accents a-plenty and quite an amusing auctioneer with a northern accent. With all the mayhem going on on stage it’s a miracle that the plot manages to be sustained. That said there was one instance of quite a clear cock-up, although with the audience on side and the precarious merge of ad lib and scripted elements throughout the play, this just added to the ridiculous nature of the experience.

The most striking element by far is the innovative use of the set. The Troupe’s mantra is ‘a rich theatre by little means’ and I must admit I couldn’t sum it up better myself. The dynamic use of puppetry (Maria’s trip through the mountains is great) and the choreographed set changes are impressive. Despite the raw spontaneous feel of the performance this element of the production is slick and the use of torches and a projector on stage by cast members as a source of lighting effects proves very atmospheric.

There’s also some great live music composed and performed on stage by Jeff Carpenter which sensitively adds ambience to some of the more touching elements of the plot. Carpenter also lets his drag alter ego, Justine, shimmy out onto the stage in between scene changes for some bizarre mimes framed by an outrageously cheesy piano motif.

Despite the downright depressing plot – an eighty-four year old woman goes in search of a painting of her dead husband, finds it, realizes it doesn’t match up to the real thing, and then dies in the cold Siberian snow – with all the farce, at no point does one feel in any way depressed. As soon as the elegiac viola music is in danger of tugging the heartstrings a little too much George Potts jumps in with ‘Things have gotten a little too gloomy around here’, and off they all go again running about like they’re in an amphetamine fuelled folk tale.

You’ve got to admire Troupe’s ethos, and the sheer enjoyment of the actors cannot help but impress on the audience. Having said that ‘Babushka’ is more amusing than hilarious; it will maintain a constant smile on your face without making you burst into laughter.

Nonetheless Troupe have a constant duty to create fun drama which refuses to take itself too seriously – worth watching if you’re looking for something light hearted and just a little bit silly.

agree
disagree

Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a