By the Presnyakov Brothers
Directed by Alex Menglet
With Verity Charlton, Olga Makeeva, Glenn Perry, Jim Daly, Tomek Koman, Tony Rive & Angus Sampson
Set Design by Tomek Koman
Lighting by Stelios Karagiannis
Stage Manager Beck Clark
Playing the Victim (Apr 20 -May 21, 2005) Kylie Skotnicki, Sunday Herald Sun 31/4/05
Can playing a murder victim vaccinate you against death?
This is the theory raised by this absurdist comedy as it follows Valya, an apathetic 30-year-old who lives with his parents somewhere in central Russia.
A uni dropout, Valyas job is to play the victim in homicide re-enactments. Exposure to gruesome murders must inoculate him against death, he assumes, and he is too lazy to do anything else.
Is Valya scared of death or real work? Probably both.
The man goes to complicated lengths to dodge anything that requires effort. He eats with chopsticks because it takes him so long to finish his meal his mother will clear and clean his plate out of frustration. Although it may take him longer to eat, he has learned sometimes you have to do something unpleasant to get out of doing something worse.
He has also found that if people feel they have already punished you, they wont punish you further. As Valyas laziness gets him in trouble, he often puts this theory into practice.
As well as following the life of our anti-hero, this play is an investigation and critique of modern Russian society and their corruptible, xenophobic, post-hyphen Soviet lifestyle.
Written by the Russian by the Russian Presnyakov Brothers and premiering in Edinburgh in 2003, the play offers some well-crafted scenes, some thoughtful philosophical monologues and some amusing moments. But as a whole, the piece lacks continuity.
Incongruity may be the mark of an absurdist play, but this script is crafted in an haphazard way that could benefit from refining.
The play ends curiously in an unfulfilling way. There is no strong plot, with the audience jolted from one scene to the next, with no progression of the characters of the characters or the story.
But what holds this play together is clever direction and the performance by Angus Sampson as our anti-hero.
He delivers his monologues with excellent timing and dry wit. In a surreal comedy that lacks gags or strong one-liners, his delivery consistently raises a smile.
Others in the cast also give quality performances, including Verity Charlton as the Japanese woman with a mysterious past and Jim Daly as Valyas father and a corrupt police inspector.
Red Stitch productions rarely disappoint, and despite deficiencies in set and costume, this low-budget work has made this surreal and confused script accessible and enjoyable.