Fri 18th – Sat 26th August 2017


Kate Plummer

at 18:17 on 22nd Aug 2017



This production of 'Maklena' is the first to be translated into the English language, and abridged to less than half of its original length. On hearing this, it would be forgivable to have some reservations about how well a Ukranian play, first performed at gun point before Bolshevik agents in 1933 and later banned for being 'bourgeois nationalist', could pack the same punch as it clearly did in a Soviet setting. Yet nothing feels clunky or rushed about this performance, from the writing to the acting, to the production.

The writing is interesting and presents interesting tensions between capitalist and communist ideals, what different people from different classes desire and the lengths they will go to to achieve their dreams.

However the success of the production is not just owed to the successful adaptation of the script. The acting is subtle and delicate which is a welcome departure from some of the more 'in your face' styles that frequent much of the performances seen on the fringe. Alona Bach is triumphant in her portrayal of the headstrong and idealistic Maklena. Conor Dumbrell is as aggressive and bombastic as Zarembsky as he is sleazy and leering when portraying a man who attempts to make Maklena prostitute herself on the street in one scene.

The production is beautiful and engaging. The cast run around gently tapping newspapers over their heads to effectively simulate rain. Origami birds sweep across the stage. A propped up jacket voiced by an actress represents Maklena's father. The costumes are beautiful, and the music and lighting are equally effective. Everything is as polished as it could be and it is clear that a fringe budget need not affect the aestheticism found more often in mainstream productions.

If it has one downfall it would be that the plot line about the love between Zarembsky and Anelia. Despite being something that clearly motivates the former's later actions, it is given a scene at the start that is not developed later. However, knowing that they have plans to develop it as a full-length piece next year, I have no doubts that these problems will be resolved.

As an intricately written drama, finely balanced with occasional lightly comic moments, I would urge people to find time for 'Maklena' in their schedules.


Constance Kampfner

at 15:20 on 23rd Aug 2017



Bringing ‘Maklena Grasa’ to the Edinburgh Fringe was a bold move. The Ukrainian play had, up until now, never before been performed in English. More than that, the first performance took place at gunpoint in front of GPU agents in 1933. Mykola Kulish, the author, was executed not long after. So, the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club were really thinking outside the box when they decided to take the show to the Fringe. And it paid off.

‘Maklena’ is the story of a young girl with her head in the clouds. As her family struggle to pay rent and the greed of the collector Zbrozhek (Joe Sefton) looms ever larger, they draw closer and closer to absolute destitution. Maklena (Alona Bach) thus dreams of revolution, of joining the Communists, of jumping over the wall which separates her from what she believes to be a brighter future.

This is a piece in which every character’s life is essentially at stake, yet the cast are careful never to slip into hysterics. Instead all maintain a beautifully calm naturalistic approach throughout, often a rarity at the Fringe. Bach is brilliant as 13 year old Maklena; she somehow manages to convey her intense naivety, whilst never losing the sense of the innate strength at the heart of the character. Sefton is equally convincing as the insecure and calculating Zbrozhek, whilst Adam Mirsky also delivers a standout performance as Padur, the disillusioned musician.

The sensitivity delivered by each member of the cast to their part is mirrored in Jack Parham’s minimalist set. White, classic wooden structures adorn the stage which can be transformed with ease from doors to dog houses, beds and tables. This ensures that scene changes form a beautiful part of the action, rather than becoming clunky interruptions.

But the real star of the show is the translator, Maria Montague. Every line of her stunning translation exudes poetry. The script feels classic, yet in many ways it is no less relevant today than it was in 1930s Ukraine. We only have to consider the events in June at Grenfell Tower to notice that the tradition of exploitative landlords is no distant memory. Don’t go home without seeing this powerfully relevant production, one of my firm Fringe favourites.


Audience Avg.

0 votes, 0 comments

Click here for more event information

cast involved

other events on

Version 0.3.7a