Russian Beauty

By Victor Sobchak
Directed by Andy McQuade
TheatreWorld Magazine (Melanie Branton)

In this new one-woman show, a young Russian woman drowns her sorrows in vodka in her Moscow flat, as she contemplates abandonment by her mail-order boyfriend (a nerdy, bespectacled British accountant, whom she initially courted for his visa, but eventually grew to really love) and the bleak economic prospects of life in post-communist Russia. It soon becomes clear that the story of Katya and Johnny’s relationship is an apt metaphor for the relationship between Russia and the West – Russia in danger of losing her identity in a dangerous dependency on an emotionally repressed, paternalistic and ultimately fickle neighbour.

 It’s a worthy and fascinating subject, and one which is clearly close to Sobchak’s heart – there’s a shocking poignancy about the fact that this play, which suggests that even communism was preferable to the economic quagmire which replaced it, was written by a dissident who fled human rights abuses in Soviet Russia.

 Although the mechanisms of exposition are at times a little crude (Katya reveals her emotions to the audience through a series of rants at the picture of her boyfriend on her dressing table and a defaced poster of Vladimir Putin on her wall, and through a series of increasingly implausible one-sided telephone calls to family and friends), the play makes its points powerfully, there are moments of humour, and Katya is a genuinely engaging character.

 McQuade directs with confidence and maturity, finding moments of subtlety and reflection in speeches which could have been played as one-dimensional rants, and using inventive staging to prevent the action from becoming too static. At times he’s a bit too inventive, in danger of over-egging the pudding with too much re-enactment and physical work, rather than trusting the character to be still and tell her own story, but he gets a lot out of the material.

 The main reason for seeing this show, though, is the stunning performance by Trine Thielen. A vibrantly animated actress with a lithe physicality and a wonderfully expressive face, she has the charisma and energy to carry the show. True star quality.

Three Weeks

Russian Beauty

Act Provocateur International

This intensely personal one-woman show grips its audience almost as tightly as suicidal Katya grips her neat vodka. Set in a dingy Moscow flat, the young Russian woman sits nervously awaiting news of her British visa, the visa she desperately seeks to escape her unhappy life in post-communist Russia. The show begins feeling slightly over-acted and amateur, but soon develops into a confident performance, exposing the inadequacies of British life and the terrible struggles that Russians suffered in face of their new ‘freedom’. The audience is uncomfortably forced to self-justify the materialistic lives most of us lead in Britain today. Touching, gripping and in parts amusing, this unique performance is definitely worth a look.


Russian Beauty

If you like your theatre light and fluffy, then Act Provocateur International are perhaps not the company for you. If on the other hand you are into more substantial theatre, always wonderfully acted and skillfully directed then they should be very near the top of your list of companies.
This play, written by the company Artistic Director Victor Sobchak, is set in the flat of Katya, played by Trine Thielen, as she waits anxiously by the phone for a call from her English lover, who has left to fly home.
The writing and direction give reign for Ms Thielen to display her acting skill to good effect as her story is told, of love, hope, desire, despair and her desperation to leave Mother Russia.
There was only problem with this production for me was that it was too short, but it was 45 minutes very well spent.


Russian Beauty