Babushka, Cambridge ADC
Reviewed by: Katie MacFadyen
Babushka is a lively, moving and highly inventive piece of theatre. Once the inevitable Kate Bush reference is out of the way, the plot begins: a Russian widow,
the ‘Babushka’ of the title, falls in love with a painting of her dead husband in the gallery where she works, and, when it is sold, embarks on a quest to steal it back.
The central performance is exceptionally strong, the lead character conveyed largely non-verbally, with a bare minimum of Russian dialogue. This is further strengthened by the shabby newspaper sets used to show the world she inhabits and the ever-increasing difference between her and the changing modern world. The tone is not nearly as bleak as the concept suggests, with a good mix of comedy and drama, and the music, though nothing new, is nicely integrated with the action.
However, while the dramatic scenes are often deeply moving, and the comedy never fails to get a laugh out of the audience, the two elements do not always gel, and the transitions between the two are often jarring. Furthermore, the plot is set up very well, but the pacing becomes rushed in the latter part of the play, the lead character’s journey never achieving the epic feel suggested by the synopsis, and the inevitable conclusion is far too abrupt.
The self-referential tone and intentionally low production values are well-suited to the Fringe. While Babushka is not without its flaws, even the weaker scenes are well-executed, and when it is strong, it is very strong.