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Stars in the Morning Sky (Susan Elkin reviews)

Stars in the Morning Sky
By Alexander Galin. Directed by Helen Tennison
society/company: Drama Studio London (student productions) (directory)
performance date: 28 Jul 2017
venue: Camden People’s Theatre

Alexander Galin’s protest play about the cleansing of Moscow before the 1980 Olympics takes us to a rural lodge (actually a squalid hut with bunks) to which several prostitutes have been removed. The play explores the dynamic between them, two men and the older woman who is – sort of – in charge. A protest play, it presents these women as rounded, damaged human beings who are being shabbily treated by almost everyone they come into contact with. Their only real strength is the bond between them although at times even that is fragile.

Because the play is so firmly anchored in its time frame (the Olympic flame passes by at the end) it often feels like a pretty wordy dinosaur and you can see why it hasn’t enjoyed too many revivals. Nonetheless the six graduating students and their director Helen Tennison do their best with it and some of the themes are interesting. Some of these “girls” have children from whom they’ve been forcibly separated and this is Russia so there’s a massive drink problem, for example. Such issues remain both topical and universal.

Corrine Delacour, of whom I hope we’ll hear and see a lot more very soon, is outstanding as Valentina – the resident “fire warden” who is in effect a cross between a hostel manager and a madame. She is often very still, simply communicating subtly with her very expressive face. She convinces completely. The essence of good acting is that it doesn’t show. Delacour’s work in this play is a powerful illustration of that.

The other five in the cast all have their moments although in every case there are times when the acting seems wooden and therefore very visible. They warm up a lot in the second half, though when Jessica Ivy as Anna screams, shouts and drinks and takes the audience sympathy with her. Natasha Linton’s Laura is much stronger once her character stops pretending to be the posh, well-connected girl she isn’t and drops her fantasy. Alannah King comes into her own at the point when her character has been beaten up and badly injured. Suddenly she makes us care. Ariadne Freya’s Klara is gravelly, hardened and more stereotypically dressed than the others. Then she too sustains an injury and we start to feel for her. Leander Vyvey makes a reasonable fist of the half-decent Nikolai and Tom Dack’s mentally ill young scientist who has escaped from a nearby institution eventually settles into a pleasing performance – probably the hardest part in the play to make interesting.

First published by Sardines

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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