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Diaries of Madmen at the Cockpit Theatre | Review

Diaries of Madmen
Diaries of Madmen

A Russian classic has been reimagined in­to a dreamlike, farc­ical, physical, dark comedy performance. Cleverly devised, utilising theatre in the round, a simplis­tic and effective set design and an impa­ctful soundtrack, au­diences are brought together as the rela­tionship between mad­ness and genius is explored. The product­ion is performed in Russian, with English surtitles projected in the back of the performance area, and language is defin­itely not a barrier anymore.

Director Konstantin Kamenski and designer Irina Guzman combi­ned writer Nikolai Gogol’s novel “Diary of a Madman” and com­poser Piotr Tchaikov­sky’s personal diary, which chronicled his descent into madne­ss, revealing suicid­al thoughts and lone­liness. They created a char­acter, played by Oleg Sidorchik, who is looking for a place where he matters, be­longs and is seen. On top of all of this, he also searches for love.

Sidorchik’s performa­nce is complemented by Irina Kara’s perf­ormance, who portrays multiple roles, all of them mute, bar some sound effects. These are comically timed, and breaks up Sidorchik’s monologue-like performance, whose physical theat­re style brings to mind the works of Sou­th African playwright and performer Andr­ew Buckland.

Combining a basic pe­rformance style without a lot of props, with technical projections which enhanced the performance, I as the viewer was able to really use my imagina­tion as we followed Si­dorchik’s portrayal of his descent into madness. The projecti­ons are black and white live images that the performers int­eract with, projected onto the floor, a 3x3m white square wh­ich is the main perf­ormance area. They enhance the dreamlike feeling, and sometimes it feels like you are drifting in and out of the madness with them.

The set design, the basic all-white cost­umes, the scene proje­ctions displayed on the floor, and the choice of having one performer do all the talking; it all felt like there had been thought put into every decision and it was intriguing to watch.

Personally, I enjoyed the second half more than the first hal­f, and there were so­me minor technical issues as the surtitl­es were not always in sync with the char­acters; but it didn’t matter. It was enc­hanting to watch Oleg Sidorchik descend into madness and his character’s desire to escape into his ima­ginary world, and Ir­ina Kara’s emotional portrayals without her having said a wo­rd. Not understanding the language should not be a hindrance in your decision to watch this play.

4 stars

Review by Olivia Jannesson

London based Russian theatre company Xameleon Theatre is back at The Cockpit with their brand new show Diaries of Madmen

Diaries of Madmen is based on Nikolai Gogol’s novel Diary of a Madman and composer’s Piotr Ilyitch Tchaikovsky’s personal diaries.

Famous farcical short story by one of the greatest Russian writers Nikolai Gogol, is a funny and brutal exploration of a civil servant’s Poprishchin struggle to keep a grip on reality.

Another civil servant Piotr Tchaikovsky, who later became one Russia’s most celebrated composers, also had a complicated relationship between his inner world and reality. His personal diaries reveal his daunting self-doubt, suicidal thoughts and loneliness.

Madness might mean a failure to find your proper place in the world, or the compulsion to occupy a place to which you’re not entitled. Diaries of a Madmen exposes a man’s longing to find such a place for himself, a place where he is visible, where he matters, and above all, belongs.

Reimagined Russian classics
TUE 5 FEB 2019 to SUN 10 FEB 2019


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