Season: November 4-14, 2009
Going to see a play about a tragic event in Russian history was never going to be an uplifting experience. Sasha Janowich‘s The Kursk is however a play that shows the versatility of theatre as a medium to discuss issues, events and truths in an accessible format.
The Kursk is the story behind the disappearance of Russian submarine Kursk in the Barents Sea in August 2000, which claimed over 200 lives. Told from the perspective of the crew, the naval officer in command and the families of the sub mariners, a rounded history is drawn.
The staging is lovely, with wonderful uses of metal benches that double to represent the enclosed deep sea space. Matched by strong lighting and use of torches, to aid the cast with movement and change of locations. The sound at times pushed the limits of discomfort a little too far, underestimating the uncomfortableness of the story unfolding in itself.
The six strong cast, including playwright Janowich, take on a number of roles within the story and all perform their parts with well-trodden understanding of their purpose, although there were moments of melodrama that removed you from the story at hand.
It’s a solid production, but not a brilliant one. The story behind the play is a wonderful one, with anonymous packages being mailed to the writer enclosing medals and naval uniforms. The support of the Russian Navy in telling the story is also phenomenal. Janowich’s play is also a well-balanced meditation on love, courage, responsibility and fatality.
At the conclusion of the play a multimedia tribute to the lost sub mariners probably has the opposite effect than intended. In its sentimentality, the exploration of truth becomes clouded by emotion, dispelling much of the power the play otherwise would have had.
Originally put on in 2007 with the same cast and crew, the 2009 run of The Kursk promises to bring a slice of Russian history to Sydney – and it is an intriguing one.