Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The White Guard

Andrew Upton has adapted 'The White Guard' in the latest Sydney Theatre Company production. In the program notes the STC's Artistic Directors, Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett, mention the play is '...charged with a real force of history and is all about the world, society and the individual in that daunting context'. Later they comment that the play is '...a lost classic'. Big statements that I didn't feel were borne out by what I saw last night.

The time is the Russian Revolution, probably 1919 judging from the program notes, and in Kiev the White Army (remnants of the former Czarist Army) is on the verge of defeat at the hands of Ukrainian Nationalists, Anarchists and the Red Army. The German Army is pulling out and leaving the White Army to their fate.

This is the play's background and the players are the wife of the Deputy Minister for War, her brothers, relatives and admirers and assorted army factions and rebels. The play is a comedy and whilst it is often funny and I wasn't convinced that it resulted in a work to match the lavish program comments. This was especially the case in the sequence where the Ukrainian leader faced off against his hoped for German backers; a sequence that played out like a Groucho Marx skit.

Notwithstanding my doubts about the work itself, I admired the cast of fourteen who performed energetically and I particularly liked the scenes changes which, whilst relatively simple, are accompanied by Russian style choral works performed by the cast. These musical moments were quite a highlight.

Last night's performance was filmed; a rehearsal for the live screening of tomorrow night's performance in cinemas across regional Australia.

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