Friday, 29 April 2005

Playing the Victim, by The Presnyakov Brothers, April 29, 2005

Playing the Victim 
By The Presnyakov Brothers translated by Sasha Dugdale 
Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Red Stitch, Rear 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda, April 29 until May 21, 2005
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 29 , 2005

Playing the Victim, by The Russian Presnyakov Brothers, is like a satirical version of current Crime Scene Investigation television shows.

A laconic young man called Valya, (Angus Sampson) has a job playing the role of victims in the reconstruction of violent crimes. Running the investigations is the disillusioned Inspector Shnurov (Jim Daly) assisted by his doting Constable, Lyuda, (Olga Makeeva) and lackadaisical Sergeant, Seva (Anthony Rive).

The TV show parallel is obvious. The play begins with a screenwriter (Glenn Perry) meeting his director (Rive) to discuss the very same scenario of a man playing the victim. The series of bizarre crime reconstructions follow.

Director, Alex Menglet, accentuates the absurdity of the writers' style and the grim comical elements. This has the edge of a contemporary Chekhov play without the poignant characters and tragic inflections.

There are some really delightful scenes such as Valya's father and mother (Daly, Makeeva) giggling in their bed.

Sampson revels in Valya's cheeky diversionary antics and rambling monologues such as the rave about urine and Russian toilets. His distinctive rhythm and delivery blends well with this quirky character whose main objective is to avoid doing things he does not like such as dishes or swimming.

There are times when the ensemble seems uncertain or uncomfortable in the style but the play is definitely entertaining with its mad, grim humour.

Daly, as the Police Inspector, diverges hilariously from his task to solve the crime to bemoan the behaviour of the younger generation and the ailing performance of his football team.

A mysterious waitress in Japanese restaurant (Verity Charlton) dances and sings a peculiar version of Madam Butterfly story.

A criminal (Tomek Koman) struggles to explain how he stayed underwater to drown his victim. Another (Perry) escapes when the coppers forget he is in the toilet.

The little Red Stitch space is cunningly designed by Tomek Koman with a few simple items to locate scenes: two wooden chairs, a strip of lino as a swimming pool, a barn door as a café kitchen and an orange blanket as a bed.

The Presnyakovs' script is strange and funny but leaves us unmoved. The most entertainment comes from Sampson's shambling and ironical observations as Valya.

By Kate Herbert

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