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Pussycat In Memory of Darkness | Review

At the conclusion of this gripping sixty-minute monologue, my colleague turned to me after a moment’s silence from the entire audience and said “Wow! How are you going to write about that?” And, indeed, it is quite a challenge to try to describe one’s emotions after seeing this play. It is depressing, and exhausting to experience, yet something that demands to be seen and discussed by everyone interested in compulsive, twenty-first-century theatre. Yet in reality, it is just a simple piece of story-telling. What makes it so compelling is that every day that passes it seems more and more relevant to the state of the world in which we live.

Pussycat In Memory Of Darkness. Kristin Milward. Credit Charles Flint.
Pussycat In Memory Of Darkness. Kristin Milward. Credit Charles Flint.

It is set in 2014, when Russia occupied Crimea and began its ongoing attempts to destabilize the Donbas, in retaliation for Ukraine’s Maidan revolution which attempted to rid the country of Russian influence. It tells the story of the nightmare life that develops for one woman (Kristin Milward) living in the east of Ukraine in the face of insidious violence stirred up in her hometown by the Russian-backed militia and propaganda. Having lost everything she is so desperate that she resorts to selling feral kittens on the street.

The play, by Neda Nezhdana, uses documentary stories from her friends and relatives, her own memories and news, such as the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner, as well as fantasy. This “cry of help” is beautifully crafted, but uncompromising and takes the audience into the heart of darkness which is this war. Yet, as the translator, John Farndon, says in a programme note, “the message is not just about Ukraine…(it is) for us all”.

One of the highest compliments I can pay to John Farndon is to say that the translation does not sound like one, it flows beautifully, as if it had been written in a heightened, poetic English, yet at the same time sounds completely natural.

As the ‘woman’, Kristin Milward is quite simply superb: she is totally believable using terrific physicality, especially with regard to her arms and hands and she makes this hour-long play fly by – drawing the audience into her story with a great sense of involvement. Each word, gesture, use of the acting area and the way in which the various props and furniture, all painted white, are used, have all been carefully thought about, yet seem totally spontaneous, as does the volume and variety of pace within the play.

She has been greatly aided by Polly Creed’s detailed direction and seems completely to inhabit this role.

Very imaginative design, again in white is by Ola Klos, assisted by the subtle yet imaginative lighting of Jonathan Chan, which includes video images of the people of Ukraine and their devastated country which help bring the story to life.

Near the start of this review, I said that this play is depressing. It is, BUT it is also inspiring, showing how and why people are determined to survive in spite of governments, politics and politicians rather than because of them.

‘Pussycat…’ plays at Finborough Theatre until the end of April – do try to see it. It may be depressing, but it is also uplifting.

Highly recommended!

5 Star Rating

Review by John Groves

Donbas, 2014. A nameless woman stands in the street. Wearing a pair of dark black sunglasses, she tries to sell a basket of kittens. She has lost everything else she holds dear: her home, her family, her hope.

Production Team
Director POLLY CREED
Set and Costume Design OLA KLOS
Lighting Design JONATHAN CHAN
Stage Manager ANASTASIA BUNCE
Informational Partner BRITISH-UKRAINIAN LAW ASSOCIATION
Producer Presented by Katteklør Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.

Supported By
The original production was supported by the Culture of Solidarity Fund initiated by the European Cultural Foundation.

Cast
KRISTIN MILWARD

PUSSYCAT IN MEMORY OF DARKNESS
A new Ukrainian play by Neda Nezhdana.
Translated by John Farndon.
Tuesday, 28 March – Saturday, 22 April 2023
https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/

Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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