Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Review: Opus No 7

Dark topics covered in life-enhancing style

Various venues

    Our reviewer believes Opus No 7 - with Maria Smolnikova and Mikhail Umanets - deserves a big hand
    Our reviewer believes Opus No 7 - with Maria Smolnikova and Mikhail Umanets - deserves a big hand

    If you are looking for a tangible link between the two captivating halves of this Russian show devised and directed by Dmitry Krymov, it might be that Shostakovich was inspired to write his 13th symphony by the slaughter of thousands of Jews by Nazis in a ravine near Kiev. Not that you need such a link. The fact that Krymov deals with two subjects as dark as the Holocaust and Stalinist oppression with such life-enhancing inventiveness is enough.

    The production has English subtitles on screens. But Krymov's language is visual. He was a theatre designer and an artist before he set up shop in the esteemed Moscow School of Dramatic Art. Here the Krymov Laboratory forges its work and proves itself a powerhouse of invention. This particular show needs an especially wide space to function. I saw it in Brighton at the Corn Exchange. Soon it will come to the Barbican as part of a UK tour.

    The main prop in the first, Holocaust half is a white wall through which, as outlandish as it sounds, a lost Jewish culture is conjured. A hurricane blasts ticker-tape at the audience. It is suggested that each piece bears a Jewish name. Life-size images of the lost community - taken, I think, from Roman Vishniac's photographs of East European Jews - are projected on the wall and with startling invention and technical skill, they become moving versions of Jews whose unremarkable conversations we can remarkably hear.

    There's a complete change of gear in the Shostakovich half but it's no less mind-expanding. One of its stars is a huge puppet of Mother Russia. The other is the composer who is gradually broken down into a quivering wreck by the persecution and torment he endured under Stalin (he fell in and out of favour).

    It is allegorical stuff, but the message couldn't be clearer. In one moment, Shostakovich mesmerisingly played by Anna Sinyakina in this performance (she alternates with Maria Smolnikova) symbolically climbs the frame of a huge grand piano. In another, her Shostakovich runs in panic from shots fired by the massive babushka who has by now turned from matriarch into tyrant. The sequence climaxes when metal grand pianos joust, clattering into each other to the strains of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony.

    The bravery of the show lies in its willingness to be playful with such dark themes. In the Holocaust section, even the death of children is suggested with a lightness of touch that, devastating though it is, leaves you grateful for the experience.

The Jewish Chronicle

School of Rock

John Nathan

School of Rock
The Jewish Chronicle

Review: Dead Funny

John Nathan

Review: Dead Funny
Theatre

Review: Ragtime

John Nathan

Review: Ragtime
The Jewish Chronicle

Reviews: King Lear

John Nathan

Reviews: King Lear
Theatre

The comics' Talmudist

Elisa Bray

The comics' Talmudist
Theatre

Kindertransport

John Nathan

Kindertransport
Theatre

Review: The Last Five Years

John Nathan

Review: The Last Five Years
Theatre

Review: The Dresser

John Nathan

Review: The Dresser
Theatre

Review: The Boys in the Band

John Nathan

Review: The Boys in the Band