Little Eagles

ZOE D’AVIGNON does, on balance, enjoy a production which suffers from some problems with tone.

ADC Little Eagles russia Soviet Space Race

ADC Theatre, 7.45 PM, February 11th-15th, £10/8.

Little Eagles was enjoyable, but lacked cohesion. Set in soviet Russia in the late years of Stalin, the play follows Sergei Korolyov from the gulag to the dizzying engineering heights of the Russian missile project.   Sadly, this space odyssey lacks luster.

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Fundamentally the performance seemed a little confused. The opening scene depicted the brutality of soviet Russia; several writhing, wailing and tormented individuals out in the cold of a gulag, a shooting, the death of an old woman and the rescue of Sergei. The tone set by this serious and hard hitting opening wasn’t really followed through for the rest of the play.  The interplay between deliberate humor and heightened emotion that followed felt intentional but it was defiantly difficult to follow.

Admittedly there were numerous technical hitches or clumsinesses that detracted from the smooth running of the performance. In a moment were Sergei was impassioned about his vision of the first rocket into space, he attached what looked like a tin foil tripod stand to a winch and it jerkily swung above the audiences head.  As funny as this was, it looked awkwardly hap hazard. Again later, when Gabrial Cagan playing Yuri Gragain as the first man in space was supposed to be in space he got lowered down on two wires and dangled above the stage, feet waving in the air in front of some fairy lights (supposedly representing the night sky).

To add to these mismatched technical attempts there was an impressive, if again confusing, array of accents on stage. All the peasants appeared to hail from the West Country, while the first Russian astronaut into space was from Newcastle with a girlfriend from the home counties. Maybe there was some deep significance to these seemingly unnecessary details but I missed it.

If the play was supposed to hang delicately between trauma and humor the only performance that really pulled off this juxtaposition  was that of Saul Boyer. His performance as Khruschev was undoubtedly the only one who managed to strike this balance; a mixture of crazed patriotism, enthusiastic vodka drinking and complete cluelessness made his appearance on stage a delight.

The actual acting was of a good standard; Robbie Aird as the brains behind the Russian space mission was convincing and focused throughout with a real sense of timing. He played the role seriously and commanded the space (no pun intended) on stage.  The quality of his performance seemed tarnished slightly by the faults I mentioned earlier.

Despite all this I did actually enjoy it, but I think that in order to do so you can’t take it that seriously, which is the opposite of what the opening scene leads you to believe. There are some really good actors in this performance but the play feels too confused to really get a sense of what angle they are going for. The technical element lets them down, had it been kept more simple I think it would have worked a lot better. Enjoyable, but not the best.