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Posts Tagged ‘Waterloo Station’

I visited Ukraine nine years ago, nineteen years after the break-up of the Soviet Union. It was obvious then that it was a very divided country, half looking east to Russia and half west to the EU. Who’d have thought it would be like that here six years later! Four years after my visit things came to a head with a revolution centred on Independence Square in Kiev, near to where I’d been staying for the second part of the trip. This extraordinary show recreates that revolution, five years later, under the arches at Waterloo station, named in memory of another battle almost exactly 200 years before.

Like all revolutions, this one starts with a meal, with vodka, obviously. The bonhomie lulls us into a false sense of security, with food, drink, music and dancing. Our narrator, a Canadian with some Ukrainian heritage, tells us how he found himself caught up in the revolution. The narrative is sketchy, but the atmosphere is extraordinary. Projections along two long sides of the space connect us with the real events of 2014. The small cast and audience move around the space building barricades from pallets and tyres, carrying shields, wearing flags.

The traditional music adds much to the creation of something which felt surprisingly authentic and totally engaging. Facts are projected to conclude the story with a return to reality as the cast from Ukraine, Belarus, Canada and the UK introduce themselves, including Mark & Marichka Marczyks, whose real experiences are at the heart of the piece. It’s staged by the founders of the inspirational Belarus Free Theatre, Natalia Kaliada & Nicolai Khalezin. This is thrilling theatre that must be seen and you have until 17th March to do so!

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Well, I saved this up for a Christmas treat, so I’m coming to it late. In another case of appropriate site specific theatre, E.Nesbit’s story is mounted in a traverse staging alongside two platforms of the former Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station.

It’s a pleasant enough experience, but I’m afraid I think everyone has been a bit seduced by the venue. Move it to a conventional theatre and this would be a slight story and a pedestrian production.

As it is, it’s staged well (though depending on where you’re sitting, it can be a bit like watching a tennis match, such is the width of the traverse) with good performances all round. The movement of the platforms on which most of the action takes place along the rails is quiet, swift and unobtrusive. When the train makes its appearance, it’s a treat, though I think they could contrive to arrange a few more appearances.

There’s not much meat in the story, but enough for ‘family entertainment’ . Some of the dialogue was lost in the surprisingly quiet amplification (you’d have thought they’d have sorted that after nearly six months). Even though it’s a station rather than a theatre, and there are 1000 people and a proper train, it’s a surprisingly intimate production, but one which for me was good but not great.

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