Tag Archives: Oleg Sidorchik

“The Legend of the Holy Drinker” at the Vault Festival

It’s a bit of puzzle as to how political HUNCH Theatre wants its adaptation of Joseph Roth’s novel to be. Efforts are made to establish the story of Andreas, a homeless alcoholic immigrant, in the here and now. But the story itself is close to a fable, with timeless qualities that fight with rooting it in London in 2020. Working with this tension, a talented team has created a thought-provoking show full of theatrical invention.

You have to suspend disbelief. A series of “miracles” mean that Andreas is gifted cash – only to drink it away again and again. It takes us to big issues about charity, alongside which the text engages with religious themes. Just as impressive is the central role – a complex, naturalistic, character despite being within such a fantasy. Andreas has plenty of faults so that it’s (too) simple to condemn what he does with his life, let alone the donations. But he is also easy to understand. With the desire to be “honourable”, the balance between circumstances and victimhood are deftly explicated. It’s a fine line walked by Oleg Sidorchik, who takes the lead role with great skill: he has to be a stage drunk, something of a clown, a man manipulated by his own jealousy and prone to violence, but with a moving back story, good intentions and weaknesses. Sidorchik manages to convey it all – bravo.

Similar praise is deserved by the whole cast – Oliver Bennett, Ed Davis, Emily Houghton and Eva Mashtaler – as this is a true ensemble piece. Acting as narrators as well as extra characters, they create a special atmosphere for the story: elevating its simplicity with a sense of fun. Bennett commands attention from the start – opening up questions about the motivation of the businessman who hands out cash. Both Houghton and saxophonist Davis manage to inject humour with the smallest lines and gestures, while Mashtaler proves impressive on a Segway… while she is performing as the sculpture of a saint.

Yes, that’s right, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, which includes a starring role for Saint Teresa, has many surreal, possibly alcohol-fuelled, moments. And they lead to a lot of memorable theatre. Director Vladimir Shcherban forefronts the movement skills of his cast, uses sound effectively, and has a brilliant eye for the simple use of props. What the team achieve with some plastic sheeting, cardboard boxes and coloured umbrellas is great. And it’s also appropriate. Such refined theatricality via lo-fi methods parallels that tension between complexity and simplicity – impeccably balanced by an intelligent and careful company.

Until 2 February 2020


“Diaries of Madmen”at the Cockpit Theatre

Xameleon Theatre works with Russian-speaking artists and specialises in bringing their distinctive performance traditions to London. If this latest piece is any indication, producer and artistic director Vlada Lemeshevska has a keen eye for talent, having brought together an admirable team whose work has a clear sense of identity and whose skills both fascinate and excite.

The idea behind Diaries of Madmen isn’t great, though. Marrying Nikolai Gogol’s novella with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s letters proves initially puzzling and ultimately unconvincing. The madness of Gogol’s character Poprischin is incongruously interspersed with Tchaikovsky’s decision to leave the civil service, then the critical drubbing he faced. The parallel between the two stories is forced – delusions of grandeur and ambition along with flights of the imagination are too tenuous as links. A potential theme of unrequited love is, oddly, unexplored. And the culmination is weak: while Poprischin is committed to an asylum, Tchaikovsky destroys his sixth symphony. From the story, there is little insight into mental health or creativity.

Ordinarily it would be difficult for a show to overcome such problems. But, while the idea driving director Konstantin Kamenski’s show may not inspire, his work and his performers are marvellous. It’s a fantastic save brought about with the aid or careful, inventive details, a distinct style of movement aided by Natalia Fedorova that comes close to choreography and some fantastic animation projected on to the floor from Irina Gluzman.

Kamenski’s cast is also exceptional. Irina Kara offers superb support as the mostly mute Mawra, who follows Poprischin around like a living prop. It’s not quite clear why she has to be encumbered so much by a picture frame and a rolling pin, but she manages to portray servility and belligerence simultaneously. Brief glances of her as Tchaikovsky’s sister show that she can also express a dignity and an inner turmoil that the show could easily have exploited further.

Taking both lead male roles, the performance from Oleg Sidorchik is truly bravura. Tchaikovsky has too small a part in the piece to be that well defined, but Sidorchik makes his portrayal distinctive and articulate. You don’t need to speak a word of Russian to admire his delivery, and his stage presence is frequently so magnetic that he distracts from the English surtitles. Whether gambolling around, writhing in agony, doing forward rolls or interacting with his shadow, Sidorchik is clearly a performer at the top of his game and you’d be без ума to miss the chance of seeing him.

Until 10 February 2019


Photo by Oleg Katchinsky