JOYCE MCMILLAN on THOUGHTS SPOKEN ALOUD FROM ABOVE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 30.5.15.
4 stars ****
THE MAGIC MUSHROOMS are to blame, in this fine short piece of dramatic poetry by Russian playwright Yuri Klavdiev, which rounds off this spring’s series of three new Play, Pie And Pint shows from Russia and Ukraine. As the play begins, our hero Oleg – played with impressive energy and wit by Simon Donaldson – has fled from wailing police sirens into the woods, where birds sing and mushrooms sprout; and in no time, we are following Oleg on a hallucinatory journey, involving an expedition to the Antarctic and a confrontation with angry penguins, a routine space flight enlivened by serious chat about the art of buying trainers online, and a visit to the luxury flat of a female oligarch, posh, wealthy, and bored.
What’s striking about the play, though, is it’s fine poise between wild, surreal comedy, and a streak of real tragedy. Half way through, Klavdiev’s drama suddeny disrupts its own picaresque structure, and soars into a long monologue, beautifully delivered by Kirsty Stuart as an unknown female figure Oleg has glimpsed in the forest; she’s a young woman, a lesbian and a street-fighter, who has come here to die after receiving a fatal stab wound. Both in this monologue and in the more fantastical reaches of Oleg’s journey, Klavdiev achieves some spine-tingling moments of pure stage poetry, well captured in Peter Arnott’s witty and thoughtful English version; and both Donaldson and Stuart give unforgettable, unsettling performances, in what emerges as a brief and powerful play for today, set not only in 21st century Russia, but everywhere, and nowhere.
Oran Mor, Glasgow; final performance today.