Edinburgh Fringe 2017
A solo play about a woman, a professional forensic psychologist in Russia, who believes that she has met real love, but finds she has been treacherously deceived. It is a story of addiction and the consequences.
Prison Psychologist is described as a one-woman documentary drama that uses ‘the verbatim technique. The author collected and gathered her research from various prison cases and studied the work of prison psychologists in Russia and France. This story is based on these findings.’
Which is unfortunate because it suggests a rather worthy piece about the criminal justice system in Russia. In reality it is a warm engaging solo play with a strong narrative arc. It does weave some of the author’s research in but the central character we meet (whose name we never learn) is a woman betrayed. The context is that of the criminal justice system as both she and Max, whom she falls for so hard, are both psychologists working in prisons. It’s about falling, about addiction, about obsession, about being unable to walk away even when your head tells you that this passion can only end in tragedy. As she wryly observes at one point ‘the mind and the heart, two separate departments’. It is dark, intense and gripping.
Written by Russian writer Elena Isaeva, the play has been translated into English by Noah Birksted-Breen but the story remains that of a Russian woman who is telling us her story in slightly imperfect English. Which, far from detracting, adds another layer – a sense that we getting a glimpse into the ways that some men in Russia might view and treat their female professional colleagues. Max clearly has a track record in pursuing younger women.
Actor, Alexia Mankovskaya is performing in English for the first time and offers a polished and confident delivery. She pulls the audience into the story apparently effortlessly.
The Vault is a perfect setting for the piece, underground and redolent of a prison. The set is minimal – a few chairs, a small table a notebook. Director Konstantin Kamensky uses the whole space and achieves some subtle changes in the use of costume and by rearranging the stage blacks.
This piece is a gem, hidden behind marketing material that doesn’t show and draw you in. It’s well worth getting up early to get to the Vault (Venue 29) to catch one of the final performances. You’ll hear strong writing and storytelling.