The Belvoir Downstairs theatre is one of my faviorate places to go and see theatre. The space is tiny, so theres never anything really commercial, but it’s the blevoir, so things are well produced, with professional sets and actors, on really modern theatre. Every time I go I see the space used in a completely new way, with a really interesting and awakening play.
Ladybird is no exception to this rule.
Set in modern post soviet Russia, the play is an extremely dark comedy about the way that russian lives have moved since the end of communism. It’s told through the eyes of Dima, a young man about to be conscripted tomorrow, and his friends who come over to celebrate with, or against him, that night. Everyone, even at such a young age, has a really dark side to them; Nobody in the play is truly happy, and everyone is portrayed as a narcissist to the extreme. I guess thats one of the things that makes the play funny: the charicatures on a few characters we know.
You watch Dimas last day of freedom crumble as he is constantly betrayed by his friends and family, and find out what really gives him hope to live his life. His father plays a small but pivotal role as both a wise narrator and paralletic alcoholic, clearly showing us how despair can take hold in modern russia. This play would be really pivotal there, where class differences in wealth, drinking problems, and the dilemmas faced by unwilling conscripts are real issues. It’s hard to bring these across to Australian audiences without knowing the backgrounds.
The stage is set out incredibly well: Dimas’ apartment is putrid and dirt filled, and you don’t know how the actors can get out backstage. Of course, they can’t, and the stage is full of actors asleep or high on something. Theres piles of furniure all around, so much that you can’t understand how it all got into the theatre in the first place. It’s a really cool layout, and the actors use the space really well.
The only trouble, for me, is the plot : It’s a little bit too perfectly bad; Every character is so deeply flawed, so completely beyond redemption, that it’s just too good to be true. I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for the whole play, but thats ok, because it’s only an hour or so long, so you don’t really have to. Good fun to see.