Friday, 6 April 2012

Theatre review: A Warsaw Melody

Apparently a big hit in its native Russia and throughout Europe, Leonid Zorin's A Warsaw Melody hasn't premiered in the UK until now. Of course as we've seen before, what's popular in mainland Europe doesn't always fly here, and there may be a very good reason nobody's tried it before. In Moscow in 1946, Victor (Oliver King) meets Polish music student Helya (Emily Tucker) at a concert hall. They strike up a relationship but Soviet policy is fated to get in the way.

The play actually starts well, with the duo's awkward first meeting suggesting a likeable couple we might root for. Very soon though her flirtatious teasing just seems like smugness, his correcting her Russian grammar becomes patronising, and these remain pretty much all the personality they're invested with. Oleg Mirochnikov's sluggish production makes little effort to inject life into proceedings. There's occasionally little observations about how life in Eastern Europe just after World War II has affected them, and perhaps for audiences who've lived behind the Iron Curtain, the backdrop gives this chaste, bloodless romance an added poignancy. It's hard for just two characters to sustain interest for two hours in the best of circumstances: These nondescript characters in one-note performances stand no chance. There's a recurring theme of people asking what time it is, unfortunately apt as I was looking at my watch a lot.

A Warsaw Melody by Leonid Zorin is booking until the 28th of April at the Arcola Theatre's Studio 2.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes including interval.

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