Theatre Review - Two Ukrainian Plays

SET in 2014, this double-bill by two prominent Ukrainian female playwrights offer valuable insights into the war engulfing the country today.

In Natal’ya Vorozhbit’s surreal tale, Take The Rubbish Out, Sasha (translated by Sasha Dugdale), Katya (Amanda Ryan) and Oksana (Issy Knowles) are organising a funeral feast. Set in Kyiv, the bereaved widow and pregnant daughter are mourning the loss of Sasha (Alan Cox), a former colonel in the Ukrainian army, who has died of heart failure. He watches their preparations.

A year later, Russian tanks are on the border, Katya is stockpiling firewood and potatoes. The Ukrainian army has resorted to recruiting dead soldiers. Sasha wants to serve his country but his family are reluctant to see him resurrected only to have to bury him again.

Svetlana Dimcovic’s production blends social realism, video projections and stylised movement.

Set in Donbas, Neda Nezhdana’s searing monologue, Pussycat in Memory of Darkness (translated by John Farndon) is the stronger piece. It explores Russia’s war on Ukraine through the perspective of one woman (Kristin Milward) and shines a spotlight on the horrors of the current, wider conflict.

A middle-aged woman in sunglasses stands by a cardboard box containing three kittens which she tries to sell. “I want to report a robbery,” she shouts. “I was robbed. What was stolen from me? Almost everything… Home, land, car, work, friends, city, faith in goodness…” The kittens, we learn, are all she has left.

The fighting has brought only darkness to her beloved homeland. Betrayed by her neighbour and brutalised by the Russian-backed militia, she’s lost all hope. Polly Creed’s simple but effective staging, and the resonant video projections, drive home the abyss Russia has created in Ukraine.

The two plays are not always easy viewing, but vividly portray the turmoil of war on ordinary lives.

Until Sept 3

Originally published by Camden New Journal