The Kursk, written by Sasha Janowicz and directed by Michael Futcher, has been described as a ‘Documentary Play’ based on the sinking of the Russian submarine on the 12th of August 2000. I went to see this performance knowing little about the tragic event that took place in maritime history and one where the information provided to me by the media was scant and sketchy. Writer, Sasha Janowicz, had spent many years working on this play, researching and compiling accounts from those who were involved in the event in order to re-create the truth behind the catastrophe. What I found to be the allure of this play was the subject matter. I wanted to see how an historical and seemingly mysterious naval ‘accident’ could possibly be fashioned into a gripping theatrical performance, which is what it turned out to be!
Upon entry into the theatre, the atmosphere was thick and still, the stage dark and colourless setting the tone and mood for the rest of the performance. This was executed via the use of dim lighting muted by a constant haze of smoke issuing silently from somewhere on the periphery of the stage. The entire play was presented as if in the chamber of a ghostly submarine somewhere in an unknown part of a foreign ocean. The scenes were seamlessly tied together and presented as the days from when naval headquarters lost contact with the submarine carrying 118 men, through to when the announcement was made to the world that both the men and machine had perished. The actors took the audience through each of the days, as they unfolded within the script, by providing a sobering and harrowing account of the emotional evolution that transpired as a result of what was slowly being revealed to them. That there was indeed a misadventure that had taken place with the Kursk and it’s crew, with only pieces of a puzzle left to put together as to how or why this could have occurred.
The direction of the play saw a discerning mixture of dialogue and narration create the layers needed to illustrate the story both above and below sea level. This provided the suspense along with a dawning realisation of what was really taking place under the ocean where the Kursk was becoming nothing more than a watery grave. The sombre script was penned magnificently so that it was able to capture and imbue a sense of disaster and highlight such a tragic loss. The acting; as performed by stellar cast Sasha Janowicz, Eugene Gilfedder, Jonathan Brand, Amanda Mitchell, Dirk Hoult and Julienne Youngberry, was charged with emotion and saturated with a sincerity that exemplified the sadness and inexplicable grief suffered by the Russians as a result of the disaster.
Led onstage by the ‘Comrade Admiral’ (Eugene Gilfedder), it became apparent that what led up to deaths of the men onboard the Kursk was out of the hands of the Russian Navy but was a significant loss that weighed heavily upon the moral conscience of the nation. The play was a re-enactment of a piece of history that was largely shrouded by mystery and all but forgotten by the minds of those within the audience, and I speak for myself in that regard. The anticipated outcome of The Kursk, as was outlined by the writer in his notes, was to restore the memory of the Kursk for those who lost their lives in the incident and I believe that he did so, and with great success.
Written by Sasha Janowicz
Venue: Metro Arts, Sue Benner Theatre | 109 Edward Street Brisbane
Dates: 8 - 25 August
Times: 7:30pm Wednesday - Saturday
Contact: (07) 3002 7100 or www.metroarts.com.au
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