Friday, 29 March 2013

Anyone For Vodka?

Past Half Remembered
New International Encounter
At Sherman Cymru, Theatre 2
27th March 2013

It’s safe to say that after being handed vodka shots and Russian tea at the start of the show this is going to be a great review!

Beverages aside Past Half Remembered is a gem of a show. In just over an hour the energy-pumped cast take us through the life of Maria Michailovna who lived through the Soviet Century. Starting with her charming romance with a Russian soldier Maria’s life is peppered with moments of great humour and great loss. Yet she manages to live to the ripe old age of 100 despite so much conflict including the Soviet Revolution and the Nazi occupation of Western Russia.

At its core this is a heart-warming and simple love story but by combining a variety of traditional theatre techniques the company transform it into the most engaging history lessons of all time, whilst also examining human nature and how we use language.
At moments it felt as if every member of the audience was actually part of the ensemble as the actors addressed us directly and bounced off the reactions in the room. The Brecht inspired style of narration and use of instruments and song onstage made it a completely immersive storytelling experience.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the production was the use of English, French and Czech. New International Encounter believe that actors should be able to use their own language when performing and even though it was impossible to understand the literal meaning of some of the lines and songs  the emotions still came through strong. Certain moments became more poignant due to their non-lingual truth and weight.

The ensemble clearly had a great time making and performing this piece and this is probably why it has been touring for the last 11 years. They make slight changes to each performance and adapt to every audience meaning the show is always fresh and exciting. This also meant there were occasional mishaps – such as a mistimed knock sound effect - but the cast took it into their stride and made a comedic feature out of their errors.

In a post show discussion the cast voiced their concerns that sometimes they feel the show is too funny and this means they lose the touching aspects of the tale. They really have nothing to fear – although the laughs came thick and fast the pure emotion of Maria’s struggle was truly moving. The moment when the 100 year old Maria dances in the snow is perfect and beautiful. 

Both charmingly traditional and brilliantly innovative Past Half Remembered is just so satisfying to watch – completely absorbing and affecting.

Ensemble: Kieran Edwards, Anna Healey, Aude Henrye, Rew Lowe, Iva Moberg, Robert Orr.

For more on the show and NIE :

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