Performed March 7 (reviewed), 8, 9, 10 at Nozhem First People’s Performance Space, and March 13 at Market Hall.
Flying is a play that Director Diana Manole says “helps us see how Chekhov could have written if he had been born in our time.”
Written by Olga Mukhina and translated by John Freedman, the play is set in post-Soviet Russia and is a mix of documentary and drama. It hopes to show viewers how “mass media, technology, and consumerism can distort our lives” but only if we allow it to do so. This production is presented by the Cultural Studies department, and produced by the class of CUST 4070Y: Advanced Studies in Theatre and Performance.
Flying is a play that delves deeply into the public relationships and private lives of its characters, so strong acting is a must. All actors involved in this showing gave excellent performances and showed a deep understanding of their characters. Each actor seemed perfect for his/her role; casting could not have been improved. At the first showing some actors faltered slightly on line delivery, but managed to pull through without breaking the flow of the play.
The staging of the play was dynamic, and at times the audience was made to look back and forth as actors on either side of the stage delivered lines in tandem. Rarely was the action centred, and part of watching became deciding where to focus your attention. This was done in a way that engaged the audience and caused them to think about what they were seeing and hearing without being alienating.
However, not all of the control was given to the audience. The actors often directed the audience’s attention to where it needed to be. Where the viewer was looking was important and played into the play’s idea that we can become “reporters and objects to be reported on.”
Whether it was by their own decision or under the direction of the cast, the audience was constantly being engaged. Characters occasionally directly interacted with the audience. Frequently the emotional content of the play visibly affected the audience, whether it was humourous or sad. The emotional range was impressive.
Audience engagement had a slight shortcoming in regards to the actors’ direct address of narration. Several times the actors congregated at the front of the stage to tell rather than show what was happening in the world of the play. While highly unorthodox, interesting, and well-delivered, these sections gave the audience a lot of information that was hard to absorb all at once. This left me feeling slightly lost.
Technically speaking, the play was extremely sophisticated. Lighting was well done and also helped to draw the attention of the audience when necessary. The music/sound was some of the best I’ve seen in a play as far as building atmosphere goes.
The little details in these areas stand out the most. Lighting was used to replicate a camera’s flash. Music was used to dynamically represent such things as car radios and ringtones, and was executed without error. This is made all the more amazing by the fact that these effects were out of the control of the actors. This indicated a high level of coordination between the actors and production team.
Set and costume design also indicated the production team’s high level of professionalism. Costumes matched and contributed to the characters’ personalities. Upon close inspection the sets were very intricately detailed and involved props that also pointed towards the personalities of the characters. Despite its intricacies, the set was never a distraction from what was happening, and often played an important role in the action. Visual cues from projected images helped to set the empty centre stage when it was being used to transition between settings.
Flying was extremely well put together and performed. The viewing I attended showed a high level of workmanship and skill on the part of the production team, and a high level of devotion and care by the actors. The play was seamlessly directed and everything I saw pointed towards a high level of understanding of the play’s content and message. I highly recommend attending the play’s final showing if you are at all a theatre fan.