Maklena

Perhaps at the time it was first written this play would have been seen as fantastic, dealing with themes that were deeply entrenched in many of the Soviet plays of the early 1930s. Bringing Kulish’s Maklena to today’s stage, however, is an entirely different matter and one that the Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club has failed to do successfully. Although the Brechtian ideals and clever use of stage space made it interesting to watch, the mediocre acting and some peculiar interpretations of the script were enough to make me question the decision to bring this show to the Fringe.

A jumble of communist and capitalist ideals from 1930s Soviet Union, the premise seemed interesting but the execution was not up to grade.

Written in 1933 by the Ukrainian Kulish, the story follows that of a young impoverished girl who has a dream of joining the Bolsheviks in the land of Soviets. However, with her family barely able to feed themselves and her sick father unable to work, that seems like a very far off wish. Things start to go downhill when her landlord’s bank goes bust and forces them to pay up on the rent they owe. Both her dreams and those of the landlord’s are shattered and both of these poor souls are forced to do what they can in order to get the money they need to survive.

Following true Brechtian style, there was no off-stage in this play. The characters and stage hands are switched in and out, sometimes rearranging the scene and sometimes a part of the performance. The clever setup of the stage seen to make the scene changes flow naturally and the live music in the background – a compilation of accordion, guitar and keyboard – succeeded in rounding off the mood in each setting.

Unfortunately that is where the list of positives ends. Although there was supposed to be a lot of heavy symbolism in the play, it sometimes felt like the representations of characters and objects stretched a little too far, becoming cryptically strange at times and difficult to understand. This only made the disjointed storyline even more unbelievable. With a mishmash of implausible actions by the characters and some altogether bizarre sequences, everything felt very confusing. Whether it was the fact the show had been cut down from its full length or simply that that was the style of writing at the time, there was little that felt intriguing or believable in this play.

A jumble of communist and capitalist ideals from 1930s Soviet Union, the premise seemed interesting but the execution was not up to grade. Odd choices of interpretations by the theatre company, a confusing plot and some second-rate acting from some of the performers were enough of a combination to leave a disappointed taste in the mouth of the audience leaving at the end.  

Reviews by Megan Atkins

theSpace on the Mile

Towers of Eden

★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Girls

★★★★★
theSpace @ Venue45

Maklena

★★
Upper Church @ Summerhall hosted by RBC

The Black That I Am

★★★★
theSpace @ Venue45

Cherry

★★★★
theSpace @ Venue45

A Midsummer Night's Dream

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

For 13-year-old Maklena, the Soviet Union is the best fairy tale yet. She imagines life in the land of the Soviets and dreams of joining the revolution. Her landlord, Zbrozhek, has a different ambition: to buy the local factory and see his name in golden letters. When their dreams are put on the line, reality and fantasy become confused and communist and capitalist ideals are taken to the extreme. This will be the world premiere of the English translation of Kulish's masterpiece – written just before his execution by the Soviet authorities.