Opus No 7, Barbican Theatre – Review. Jenny Bull

2014

 All this month the LIFT 2014 Festival will, once again, be bringing the best of the global stage to the city of London. Since 1981 LIFT has been curating and producing festivals which showcase pioneering new forms of international theatre across a host of London venues; bringing with it ‘radical imaginings and enthralling stories’ from around the world to our doorstep. This year’s line-up, predictably, looks to be another compelling feast of theatrical innovation.

Opus No 7 from the Dmitry Krymov Lab is a perfect fit for LIFT. It’s awesome. In fact, it’s pretty difficult to know where to begin in describing this tremendous work by the Russian creative collective. In the first twenty minutes of Opus No 7 paint is smeared across the set and walls are brought to life; after that the wondrous action is non-stop.
 
The Dmitry Krymov Laboratory was formed in 2004 by Dmitry Krymov and a group of collaborators. With a background in stage design, but also fine art, the Lab has built an international reputation for its visually powerful and sensory works where art and physical theatre collide to create epic yet raw storytelling.
 
First performed in 2008, Opus No 7 is split into two halves with a 30 minute interval; during which time an army of stage managers mop up and transform the sets. The first half ‘Genealogy’ depicts the persecution of Soviet Jews. The second, ‘Shostakovich’, explores the relationship between Russian composer Dmitry Shostakovich and the Soviet state from the beginning of his career in the 1930s, up to his death in 1975 – a tumultuous and haunting period of Russian history. Both halves of the show tell stories of horror, oppression, personal struggle, survival and love in an epic way.
 
Epic indeed. Across the 2 hour running time the stage is host to a variety of visually stunning, expertly choreographed, and spectacular feats of theatrical invention. The set is blasted with clouds and clouds of smoke and newspaper; packed with spinning and clashing life sized metal pianos; immersed with a mixture of real life and contrived projections of times past; and entertains a gigantic, gun-toting communist puppet!
 
The small band of actors don’t stop for breath. They smear themselves with paint, swing from the ceiling, and burst through walls. Everything is performed with meticulous and measured precision, and so as the cast prepare for each sequence you sit in suspense, looking forward to whatever could possibly come next. With especially notable performances from Anna Sinyakina and Mikhail Umanets, all the actors sing and speak with a mixture of knowing humour and beautiful poignancy befitting of the subject matter.
 
The entire thing is a privilege to behold. It’s only running until the 14th June 2014 at the Barbican, so you should probably get on it!
 
Author: Jenny Bull, 05.06.2014

Theater

Opus No. 7 2008,

History

Opus No 7, Barbican, London – review. Sarah Hemming
Russian stage designers perform in London. Robert Tanitch

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