I’ve always intentionally avoided anything by Cambridge theatre groups. I may be myself a bit of a snob but I conversely have always had an inverted snobbery towards the more elite institutions such as Oxford or Cambridge. Being painfully Lower-Middle Class as I am at least allows me to look down in both directions.
Why then did I choose to see this show? Well the answer is simple (and slightly shameful). A very pretty girl gave me the flyer. It’s not, by any means, a good reason to see a show, but I’m glad it helped me overcome my prejudices. (Also, in my defence, the flyer did sound vaguely interesting as well).
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I went. This was a very impressive production. Apparently the first time this once-banned Ukranian play from 1933 has been performed in the English language. I knew nothing about this play, the playwright, or Ukrainian literature as a whole before seeing this production. I know enough about the English language, however, to know just what a great translation this is. The dialogue is powerful, expressive, vivid, and natural. This remaining true, something about the linguistic, as well as musical choices maintains a distinct, and recognisable Eastern European tone that keeps the play true to its roots. The script is also impressively compressed for its 1hr Edinburgh slot. Considering it has been reduced to half its intended length, very little about the pacing feels rushed or clunky.
The performances too are highly impressive, the actors in the lead rolls of Maklena and Zbrozhek carry the performance with ease and confidence, with Zbrozhek’s actor injecting great power, and Maklena’s actress great sincerity into their respective performances. Anelia’s actress, and Padur’s actor also demonstrate a brilliant understand of character and portray their characters with a finely-crafted eccentric energy.
The set is magically put-together and maneuvered, allowing for smooth scene changes that move and tandem and time with the equally delightful musical elements. The heart and commitment put into the staging of this piece, and the results of such, are what pushes it from the realms of impressive to captivating.
CUADC’s production of Maklena is a fine piece of drama that I’m sure does justice to Kulish’s original vision. The production in it’s full version, really must be something to behold. For now, however, this shortened version is rather wonderful as it is.