Philobiblon: Nostalgia for the 20th-century

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nostalgia for the 20th-century

If, to form a relationship with a play, you demand to be wooed with perfect red roses, entertained by fireworks, and seduced by the image of a perfect life, then The Leningrad Siege is not for you. Jose Sanchis Sinisterra's creation, making its English-language debut at Wilton's Music Hall, instead sidles up to you, laughs crazily, wobbles, then drifts around in a haze, penetrating yet indeterminate, like an old lady's lavender water.

Yet if you relax, hold out your hand, and allow yourself to be led into this story of two old ladies living out a confused, often fantastical, "reality" in an old theatre that's falling apart around them - you'll find you're exploring the whole of 20th-century European history from an intelligent, if oddly tilted, perspective.

On one level this is a familiar tale. Natalia (Dierdra Morris) was the ditzy blonde star actress, the mistress of the Great Nestor, the theatre's director, who died -- centre-stage, as he'd lived -- in a mysterious fall. (Or at least the women think it was mysterious; they wonder if it was murder.) Priscilla (Rosemary McHale) was the faithful but frustrated wife of the firebrand, who though he was aging had continued to proclaim, with all of the familiar formulae, the cause of the Revolution. READ MORE

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