By Carly Fisher
The story of a migrant family from Russia living in Brooklyn, Russian Transport at the Darlinghurst Theatre allows us to delve into the lives of a typical family trying to make ends meet as they try to build a life in a new country. It’s a highly topical story that Fishy Productions has chosen to stage at a perfect time in the nation’s current discourse.
Misha (Berynn Schwerdt) and Diana (Rebecca Rocheford) have set up a new life for themselves and their two children Alex (Ryan Carter) and Mira (Hayley Sullivan) in America after leaving Russia. Evidently holding true to their homeland traditions and language, the family indulges in typical Russian cuisine and vodka from early in the piece, and continuously swap languages between English and their native tongue. This is the household of a typical European migrant family where the daily conversations are harsh and tense but the love runs deep and true.
When Diana’s brother, Boris (Nathan Sapsford) comes to stay with them from Russia, the lives of the whole family are turned upside down as old practices die hard and the haunts of the past follow them to America.
The show has a great premise but unfortunately whilst the drama builds throughout, the show ends before we reach its peak. The energy of this particular performance was low and as such, the story didn’t pack the punch that was intended from playwright Erika Sheffer.
Whilst many performances were strong, there was a clear inconsistency across the ensemble which ultimately detracted from the performance. Stand outs in the production were certainly Hayley Sullivan and Ryan Carter, who were less restricted by Russian accents and therefore had a lot more flow to their performance, showing off their talents and bi-lingual transitions effortlessly.
Whilst some scenes were somewhat stunted by excessive movement and exaggerated blocking choices by director Joseph Uchitel, as a whole I appreciated the ability to use the one set - cleverly and efficiently designed by Anna Gardiner - to create multiple spaces and worlds within this one play. Uchitel has clearly worked closely with the cast to uncover the depth of the script beyond the words and this clear understanding and commitment from the actors certainly gives the play the gravitas it requires to successfully tackle the intense themes that it alludes to.
Martin Kinnane’s lighting design offered an eerie feel to the house – a homely place where problems are evidently boiling to the brim. The decision to never go to a complete black out allowed for a smoothness in the production, and a clear indication of time passing, enhanced by Benjamin Freeman’s sound scape, that the show greatly benefited from. If anything, some of these transitions dragged for just too long leaving the audience halted in the midst of intensity.
Overall, the show has some very strong elements and was certainly worth seeing because of it. Unfortunately the story ends at a point of intensity that feels unresolved and consequently, underwhelming.
Photo Credit: Nino Tamburri
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large