Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"Set in and around a lift, the location of her death, Badac’s new piece follows the life, work and assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Exploring her exposure of human rights abuses committed during the second Russian/Chechnya war and its aftermath. The drama features specific events that Politkovskaya reported while recreating some of the horrors she faced in her pursuit of justice. An intense study of the persecution, imprisonment, torture and murder that journalists suffer globally while striving to bring human rights abuses to the attention of the world."
Badac Theatre Company have created an intense, immersive production seeking to inform audiences about the plight of the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Anna exposed the crimes of the government, including the gassing of hostages during the Chechen theatre siege. She was ultimately silenced – assassinated.
The tales of torture and murder in Anna are extremely difficult – absolutely heart-wrenching stories. Badac Theatre Company has chosen to stage these accounts in the basement corridor of Summerhall, freshly painted white. Audience members are stood hostage-style against facing walls – starkly lit by overhead strips. This over-whelming, uncomfortable setting has great promise for an astonishing hard-hitting production; however Badac Theatre Company failed to fully realise this potential power.
Steve Lambert’s script has an intricate repetitive structure; however the delivery was extremely aggressive, too violent.
This aggression was effective for the first twenty minutes. As Anna (Marnie Baxter) made and held eye-contact with the audience during impassioned monologues about uncovering the truth the effect was electric, stirring and gut-clenching. Saskia Schuck portrayed a sympathetic desperation which is successful in communicating her distress.
As the play progressed, the actors, particularly the male soldiers were allowed no nuances in their delivery – everything was shouted and descended into constant expletives. Encased in the corridor, these shouts were suitably horrific for the situations they narrated – and a form of torture for the audience. After the Chechen hostage story the unrelenting delivery became too alienating and uncomfortable for any real understanding of the piece beyond your own plight as an audience member.
When Anna came to a conclusion, it was disappointingly bland compared to the previous violence, the final gunshots muffled and tinny. Having the actress lying ‘dead’ in the life – the only route out – was more laughable than poignant.
Anna did have some interesting comments – using British accents for the characters and repeating that ‘this is happening here’ drew a powerful illusion to UK politics. The physical closeness of the performers was extremely brave. The bystander effect of being placed in full view but standing passive to terrible events created a tremendous impulse to intervene and stop the piece. The only barrier to that action was the fear that the actors were in such a frenzy they might lash out, and the reminder that this was just a piece of theatre.
Go if you want a unique experience, and are not claustrophobic or faint-hearted.