Thursday, 22 June 2017

“The Grain Store” by Year 2 VWNC Performing Arts Acting Students
Create Theatre, West Notts College.
In complete contrast to Tuesday’s choice of theatre at Create, the second year students tackle a pretty grim subject in the terror famine that caused seven million deaths in Ukraine and neighbouring lands in 1929 as Stalin launches the first of his Five Year plans. The play is adapted from the book by Natal’ia Vorozhbit and translated by Sasha Dugdale.
It features a close knit community which stands in the way of Stalin’s plans to create a Socialist Soviet Union. They are robbed of their land, their religion and ultimately their freedom and independence. It’s their story.
And what a story! Grim and shocking as it may be there's also a lot of comedy comes through with the translation. The shocks are in your face with the inane and senseless shootings of the kulaks (skilled farmers). they are lined up and one by one shot, almost as if it were a sport.
There's a Romeo & Juliet feel about it as well with Arsei and Mokrina. The play also has a "play within a play" theme which soon becomes clear to be an almost predictive image of what was to come under Stalin's rule.
When the peasants are forced to perform a jovial dance for a propaganda film with the promise of food as a reward, this is cruelly taken away from them, causing absolute uproar from the starved and weakened peasants.
This cast of Year 2 students worked as a complete unit. They performed with a naturalness, making the characters completely believable. They say that an actor has to walk a mile in the shoes of the character they're performing to get under the skin of the character. No one could do this in this play and that didn't stop this bunch from giving a professional and emotion packed performance.
The actors were Alex Palmer, Alice Bradley, Bradley Turner, Olivier Van De Braak, Caitlan Emmas, Cassidy Hankinson, Dan Wilkinson, O'Cean Ria Tucker, Hannah Brown, Harry Watson, Jack Thorpe, Julian Salmon, Sindja Sosina, Tom WilsonMatthew Lamb, George Davis and Shannon Mansfield-Throsswell. Every one a vital piece of the jigsaw that made this Russian play such an entertaining and enjoyable play to watch.
The relative sound effects and music created an apt feel for the period and geography of the play and the lighting also gave the right atmosphere. Another job well designed and carried out by Sam Nicholson and Kian Staley.
Also giving the right geographical and era feel were the clothing and costumes, designed and made by Kerry Pilcher with additional help from Sally Danby.
I loved the choreography which started the play off and depicted the mood of the villagers at the start of the five years. This joyous mood in contrast to the way the villagers were beaten down until broken.
I would've like to have known who the director was, as they did a wonderful job creating that balance between the lighter moments and the tragedy.
A wonderfully gelled cast who presented an intelligent and extremely watchable piece of Russian theatre. I look forward to seeing some, if not all of the cast in local theatre productions in the future.

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