By Vassily Sigarev. Translated by Sasha Dugale.
The strength of Ladybird was in the language, adapted or localised by Ian Meadows and the company to match the casual, violent and limited vocabulary of any group of kids in town on a Thursday night. “I just, like, kept kicking him for like fifteen minutes, ay.” This simple approach made this Anti-Putin Russian play feel more crucial and important to our context than any Australian play recently programmed at B Sharp. As it was adapted by the company, the actors seem to really own the language, which contributes to some truly excellent performances, specifically Sophie Ross as Lera and Ian Meadows as Dima.
The coarseness and brutality of the language is reflected in the design by Justin Nardella, the stage rakes up with a construct of junk, a mess of TV’s, antiques and take away food wrappings. While this does make for some interesting playing spaces, for the most part the set is completely superfluous and at worst rather distracting from the realities of the language. The TV’s embedded in the set flicker on and off with AV that has no bearing on the performance and really seems like an attempt to incorporate vision for visions sake. Yes, indeed we are living in a world of advertising, shock! Far more effective would the play have been if we were allowed to just engage with these ‘cool’ young actors and the text standing alone.
In terms of affecting my emerging practice, Ladybird highlights the problems inherent to incorporating design in theatre. Where is the line between an illuminating and beautiful design that is inseparable to the action of a performance and a pointless add on that is tacted on to a text? I’m certainly not sure yet. It is to Ladybird’s credit that this split was so obvious, for I would not have been able to make this distinction if the texts adaption were not so keen and so dazzling.
Ps. Also. Herbal Cigarettes? I was frustrated by this claustrophobic party not smelling anything like one. In fact it smelt more like a Body Shop, or a room full of incense. I say to hell with the audiences sensitive nostrils, give us the real smell of decay.
I disagree almost completely about the set being superfluous. Rather than take away from the realities of the language, the set offered the perfect frame, its overbearing nature highlighting how all these coarse, brutal characters are merely products of their harsh environment. It allowed for the simplest of scene changes and the two “trick” moments, where Slavik disappeared through a newly discovered hole in the ground and then again through the fridge door, were just magic. The only element I found to be tiresome were the TVs, which I agree felt quite token, as if they had been added late and not fully explored. However, their being switched off added a nice accent to the final moments of the play, certainly a much nicer effect than the half-hearted attempt at snow falling that was simply not required.
Overall, I thought the show was outstanding, with remarkable performances of a fascinating text. An exciting start to the next section of the B Sharp season.