views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

All That Remains
Camden People's Theatre
30th July 2018

★★★★☆

Publicity photo for All That Remains

Photography provided by Molodyi Teatr

It's hard to remember a time when you could idly click on the travel advice for an overseas country and the Foreign Office website wasn't warning you about something dreadful. It's always terrorism this, volcano that, hurricane there... Really, it would be so much easier to just publish a list of countries without problems. (That would admittedly be a very short list.) We've been on high alert for so long ourselves in the UK that we've become blasé about what's going on elsewhere in the world. However, if you take a look at the advice for Ukraine, you'll note that our government still refuses to even provide consular services to large parts of the country - it's just not safe. Ukraine has been at war now for over four years. Four years! All That Remains is set against this continuing backdrop of conflict and reminds us of the war that hasn't let up and the devastating human cost. We may not talk about it much, but it's still happening and the losses are still racking up.

Olesya Khromeychuk provides a very moving and raw monologue at the start and end of the play, surrounding the drama with a reminder that the script is inspired by very real losses, including her own. Although we're never made to feel uncomfortable by it, it becomes impossible to distinguish between her character's devastation and the performer's own personal grief. Is she an exceptional actress or is there no acting involved? Tricky. All we can really determine for sure is that when looking at Khromeychuk discuss her feelings, we are flooded by an overwhelming rush of sympathy and want to run onstage and just give her a hug. She certainly draws attention to a bizarrely overlooked war, with her calm, dignified speech making us feel conversely emotional.

There are some very striking uses of shadows, with the tragic soldier (Fin Ross Russell) shining a torch in the pitch black sufficient to transport us to the terrifying reality of front line. We're blinded by the light and briefly catch a hardened look on his face. War is never glamorous. The lighting design though does seem to rely heavily on half-light and shadows, which ultimately loses its impact over the course of the show. Using the rest of the ensemble (Khromeychuk, Lesya Liskevych, Liliya Romanyshyn, Uilleam Blacker, Volodya Glushak and Slavko Tsyhan) to demonstrate the inefficiency of a government department is cleverly framed, with some very bold direction. With a simple, black box venue, this use of actors rather than props lends itself well to creating an instantly recognisable setting and bringing some comic relief to a very melancholic show.

The pictures passed around at the start are a bit of a challenge. The audience seem confused as to what they're meant to do with them and why, with their significance only revealed later. Yet, passing around pictures during a show runs the risk of distraction - if there's no intention to publish a programme with director's notes in it, maybe these artworks need a short note explaining their meaning and an instruction to look at them and pass them onto your neighbour. Whilst it's a nice touch, it's equally a problematic one in a sold-out space where slightly moving your arms requires careful planning.

After leaving the venue, our minds constantly flit back to Khromeychuk's work and we question why the war in Ukraine doesn't seem to make the headlines in the UK. This is a show that remains long after the metaphorical curtain has gone down (rarely is there a real curtain in the fringe circuit!) and makes us consider some difficult issues. All That Remains is poignant, tragic and quietly powerful.

All That Remains ran on 30th July and next runs on 5th August at Camden People's Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe. It transfers to Greenside @ Infirmary Street from 21st to 25th August 2018, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Warren Street (Northern, Victoria)



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