Voices from Chernobyl at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
Adapted from the book of the same name, Voices from Chernobyl is a play about the psychological and societal devastation in the fallout of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Germán D’Jesús’ artful production, in conjunction with theatre company Ténéré Arte, manages to preserve the disturbingly raw subject matter, that is, the fate of Chernobyl’s victims, first written down by Belarusian Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich. The consummate play resulting is a physical retelling placed within an eerily barren set designed by Lorena Sanchez and Kristina Petrova.
A theatrical palimpsest at heart, the piece is a balancing act between rhetoric and its meaning, a scale that at times leans too far to favour the former, disallowing what could have been a crucial gain in an empathetic reception; some scenes are abruptly short, whilst others laboriously drag out, which is somewhat saved by the cunning utilisation of both the English and Russian languages, delivered by standout performances from Oleg Sidorchik and Natalia Bogdanova.
The curious thing about Chernobyl, conveyed in one of the stories, is not how ugly it was, but how beautiful it was; the spring flowers blossomed and the potato plants thrived, but they were masked invisibly by the deathly emanation of radiation. This is the take home package, the raison d’être: that it is morally irresponsible for governing bodies to deny a crisis, invariably killing thousands, in an attempt to save face.
Irrespective of expected teething issues due to an adaption’s glorious first attempt at flight, also accounting for a change in genres, Voices from Chernobyl has potential. If there is anything learnt from its warm reception at the Jack Studio Theatre, it is there is no need to be safe. The stories are powerful, the acting phenomenal, if only the full extent of Alexievich’s gut-wrenching and visceral journalism were exploited, then there would be nothing stopping this already good production from being remarkably outstanding.
Voices from Chernobyl is at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 2nd until 13th May 2017, for further information or to book visit here.