01 September, 2009

Festival Blogger review - The Yalta Game

Image: The Yalta Game. Photo: Trent O'Donnell

Patrick Mason’s production of Brian Friel’s The Yalta Game really is a little gem – little being the opportune word to describe this fifty minute stage adaptation of Chekhov’s classic tale, The Lady and the Lapdog. The theme of transparency lies at the heart of this play which recounts the extra-marital affair of a Russian accountant, Dmitry (Risteárd Cooper), and a young high-society woman, Anna (Rebecca O’Mara). The two begin their affair and are bonded by their mutual passion for “The Yalta Game”, in which the residents and visitors of a small Russian town scrutinise each other “investing the lives of others with imagined lives,” however, Dmitry soon becomes one of his own fantasies - albeit of his own devising - and this theme becomes all too apparent when he claims he has two distinct lives, one public and one private – the public one being, “fully conventional, altogether transparent, and an utter deception.”

In addition to the bravura performances of the cast in this two-hander play, Liz Ashcroft once again manages to capture the full flavour of the play in her set design (as she did with Faith Healer) which is very minimalistic and altogether static throughout, if almost non-existent. The production contains no additional props other than about 10 chairs randomly placed across the stage; however, this set design remains very effective as it means there is no detraction from the intensity of the couple’s relationship on stage, which at times has the charm of that of Laura and Alec in Brief Encounter.

The full poignancy of this play lies in the fact that both characters know that their relationship cannot last and are able to admit this to themselves, yet their love transcends this fact and they are unable to admit it to each other. In essence, they remain somewhat trapped in a freefalling inertia which in Dmitry’s words is both “deceptive and authentic.” This truly was a play with a strong flavour in which the audience was left desperate for more, which is exactly what makes this production a success.

Reviewer: Scott Clair

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