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Review - The Kursk: a production worth viewing

The Kursk

By Sahsa Janowicz

Directed by Jill Cross

Presented by Villanova Players

Ron Hurley Theatre Seven Hills Hub

Season has finished. Duration: 80 Minutes, No Interval

The Kursk is a tautly written play that recounts the disappearance and attempted rescue in August 2000 of the trapped men of the Russian nuclear submarine K-141 The Kursk.

This script was first developed by Matrix Theatre under the direction of Michael Futcher in 1997 and toured nationally under the Critical Stages banner to rave reviews. Kudos to Villanova Players and director Jill Cross for taking up this very challenging script. This production is being staged as part of their short and sharp season of plays, and the decision to stage this piece in the Ron Hurley theatre and not The Hub was a correct one.

On entering the theatre, I was impressed by the stark, simple staging, the evocative lighting and the soundscape that was already playing giving the space the perfect atmosphere for the story that was about to unfold. In the claustrophobic world of the trapped submariners, circumstances seem dire. For the proud and obstinate Admiral Popov, the rescue effort is urgent. And for the families of the sailors whose fates hang in the balance, news is anxiously awaited.

The cast of nine, for the most part, handled the difficulty of the script and the characters very well. As the narrator, Thomas Bishop, had an assured ease and truth about his performance as he guided us through the ensuing events. Also impressive was Luke Monsour as Admiral Popov, who started off as a very staunch Russian Admiral and gradually began to show a man broken down by the decisions he makes. Selina Kadell as the Woman in Black encompassed a difficult role with aplomb, as the voice of compassion and conscience throughout.

As Olga Kolesnikov, Emily McCormack tugged at our heartstrings as the young wife waiting for her husband to return, with a lovely, sensitive performance. The other five cast members, Steve Cameron, Moreton King, Liam Jarrat, Vivian Broadbent, and Veronique Ford nicely added their skills to make this a cohesive ensemble piece of storytelling.

The Lighting Design & Effects by Tristan Holland, and the Soundscape Design & Special Effects by Melanie Blizard, were right on point. The costuming was excellent. The Russian Navel Costumes, and the Australian Captains Uniform were on loan from Michael Futcher and Peter Ewart-Brown respectively.

Less successful however, was the flow of the piece. I found there were too many blackouts, and actors leaving and entering the stage, which halted the flow.

Use of minimal set to tell the story worked admirably, so I was very surprised to see a large prop/set piece emerge to portray the AS-32 Submersible. For me it detracted from the production. It was an interesting concept but it didn’t work for me.

Overall it was a production worth viewing, and a pity that it isn’t part of Villanova Players regular season.

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