Reviewed by Julie Huffer
Based on the real story of a Brisbane socialite who had an affair and later married a prominent Russian politician, Motherland is a contemporary play focused on themes of love, loss, art and sense of belonging.
Travelling through Russia, Paris, New York and Queensland during times of revolution, peace and war, the new work by Australian Katherine Lyall-Watson unfolds as a collage of scenes dipping in an out of three relationships.
There’s the Brisbane secretary striving to prise Alexander Kerensky away from his wife, there is a feisty Russian female writer in a relationship with a sickly poet, and a
Russian mother and son who move to Qld to start a new life with a Brisbane businessman who promises to fulfil their dreams.
On an academic level, the dialogue is cleverly manipulated so that the actors morph into different characters and distinct scenes are linked through space and time.
As the play progresses, the scenes start to make more sense and take on greater meaning as each relationship draws from another.
But perhaps this play, which has made its way to Sydney’s Glen St Theatre, tries to be too clever because its affect is cerebral, rather than emotional.
There’s not enough punch in the relationships to make me care much about them.
Towards the end, when two of the women reveal their love for each other, there’s a chance for some depth of feeling, but this isn’t developed. Death is glossed over without pain or shock.
There’s clearly merit in this ambitious work, and some light-hearted reflections on writing and art, but not enough to enthral me.
Motherland does provide an interesting forum for the cast, which, under Caroline Dunphy’s direction, powers its way through the 90 minutes with impressive vigor.
The star of the show is Barbara Lowing as Nina. She devours the stage, lights it up, commands it vocally and is a joy to watch.
Peter Cossar, as Chris and Kerensky, physically inhabits the contrasting Russian and Queensland characters with ease and aplomb, while Kerith Atkinson is very assured as the Australian mistress Nell.
Daniel Murphy (Sasha and Khodasevich) and Rebecca Riggs (single mother Alyona) are also strong.
WHERE: Glen St Theatre
WHEN: May 17 to 22
HOW MUCH: $16-$64
BOOKINGS: 9975 1455