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Theatre review: Kursk 
30th-Mar-2010 10:39 pm
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When Kursk was at the Young Vic last year I guess it went under my radar (or maybe sonar would be more appropriate) so I'm glad it's returned for a second run. Set in a submarine, it's almost worth the ticket price for Jon Bausor's set alone, which takes over the whole of the Maria studio. It's on two levels, and although it's a promenade production, the audience has to decide before the start whether to stay downstairs among the action or on a viewing platform upstairs (as people going up and down the stairs throughout would be distracting.) I'm sure the latter gives great overall views of the action but for me there was no competition, being in the middle of events gives the show a lot of its power. I'd recommend getting there when the doors open 15 minutes before the start, as you have time to explore the set and find possible good vantage points (the audience can stand anywhere except on some clearly marked "corridors" on the floor that the actors use to get from one place to another.)

Kursk was a Russian nuclear submarine that sank in 2000; Bryony Lavery's play is set in a British sub, one of whose top-secret missions is to find Kursk and take reconnaisance photos, so they are perilously close when the ominous sound of an explosion comes. We may not be on the doomed sub itself but we feel for the victims as we've spent time with their British counterparts, at first experiencing their working life, then their camaraderie and personal dramas. The characters are very well-drawn and by halfway through you feel like you know them. The acting's uniformly good, led by Laurence Mitchell as the Commander who has to make a couple of difficult decisions along the way. I'm not sure how well the play would fare if presented in a more traditional staging but in Mark Espiner and Dan Jones' production it's an exhilarating and (aptly enough) immersive experience.

In other news, I was disappointed that Bryan Dick, who was in the cast last year, didn't reprise his role this year, as of course he's now a Being Human alumnus (he played Sykes, the ghostly airman.) As it happens tonight he was actually in the audience, often standing next to me (NB I was not stalking him, although it would be fair to say I was aware that someone who'd actually been in the show would have a good idea of where to stand to get a good view.) I know this is the default statement about people from off of telly, but he's tiny. By which I mean marginally shorter than me. I think it was the long coat in Being Human, it made him look all long and lanky. He's not.

Kursk by Bryony Lavery is booking until the 17th of April at the Young Vic's Maria.
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