Saturday, 6 June 2015

Theatre review: The Harvest

Michael Boyd never did get round to completing that Russian season he kept announcing when he was running the RSC, and he doesn't seem to have got it out of his system now he's back to freelance directing: The Harvest is by Pavel Pryazhko, originally from Belarus and apparently the current darling of Russian theatre. Boyd also brings with him a familiar face from the EnsembleTM to keep him company: Dyfan Dwyfor plays Valerii, the informal leader - because he's done the job before - of a quartet making a bit of cash picking apples in a large orchard. Valerii instructs the others on how best to store the apples, while competing with Egor (Dafydd Llyr Thomas) for the attentions of Ira (Beth Park) and Lyuba (Lindsey Campbell.) This particular kind of apple is meant to be left to ripen for some months after picking, so a single bruised fruit in a crate is not to be allowed.

So we're somewhere where surrealism meets slapstick as the four find that a number of apples have been bruised, and their attempts to separate them from the good ones only lead to more fruit getting damaged.

This being Belarusian theatre, inevitably huge amounts of apples get thrown around and wasted (I have an image of Belarus as a place where people are starving on the street, because food is in plentiful supply but it's all being chucked around by Belarus Free Theatre.) The impossible task the characters have been given, of delivering perfect apples in rotten and bottomless crates, feels like a heavy-handed metaphor for life for young Russians today, and the brevity of the piece adds to the feeling of it being somewhat incomplete.

The cast are all good though and the - sometimes satisfyingly brutal and bloody - slapstick scenes are well-handled. Madeleine Girling's white box set also comes alive as the four workers' situation spirals out of control. But while individual moments shine, The Harvest as a whole doesn't feel like enough to get your teeth into.

The Harvest by Pavel Pryazhko in a version by Sasha Dugdale is booking until the 13th of June at Soho Theatre.

Running time: 55 minutes straight through.

Warning: Contains apples.

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