JUST as PIAF’s The Encounter pushed the boundaries of what a theatre production can do with sound, Opus No 7 shows the possibilities of how spectacular set design can create and shape a production.
Visually spectacular, the Russian production takes the audience through a journey of some of the darkest days of 20th century Russia.
The first half of Opus No 7 tells the story of the Holocaust, the murder of Europe’s Jewish community as told by the people left behind, piecing together the horror through discarded newspapers and old photos.
Body parts burst through cardboard, black paint is splashed onto walls and made to resemble the distorted shapes of Hasidic Jewish men. The audience is blasted with cut up pieces of newspaper, the performers picking up the pieces, reading names, putting together the tragedy from the torn wreckage they find themselves in.
While visually spectacular, there is no real clear narrative. This is not the story of the holocaust per se, more a piece of performance art that speaks to the disjointed tragedy and confusion of that time.
There is a slightly more formed narrative structure in the second half of the show, where we skip forward to Soviet Russia and the story of Dmitri Shostakovich, a pianist and composer who battled with the state.
A fantastic, over-sized puppet, representing Mother Russia stalks the diminutive Shostakovich, failing to kill him physically, but murdering his artistic spirit with allegiance to the state.
Opus No 7 is not going to be for everyone. It is not a hugely accessible work in terms of story, and audience members would benefit from brushing up on their knowledge of 20th century Russian history before heading into see it.
However, it is one of the most visually spectacular shows you will see. Director Dmitry Krymov has taken big, sweeping themes – genocide, oppression, censorship, state control – and explores them with stunning tableaus and visual expressions of complex ideas that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.
Krymov was a set designer before he was a director, and Opus No 7 shows the power of inventive imagery in expressing moods and ideas.
Opus No 7 runs until February 26 at ABC Perth Studios.