Tag: Bagryana Popov

Review: Anna

A bizarre, yet perfectly plausible set of interlocking events

By Rachel Holkner

Fear, frustration and overwhelming sense of foreboding, the lack of control one feels in the face of endless, incomprehensible, nonsensical bureaucracy. These emotions are deftly conveyed and uncomfortably experienced throughout this one act play. Anna is a very timely piece, although firmly set during its own time and space of Bulgaria during the Cold War.

Both written and performed by Bagryana Popov, deftly using her childhood experiences and years of research into the totalitarian regime to develop a bizarre, yet perfectly plausible set of interlocking events.

The appearance of a large sum of money is the instigating event of the play, and the contradictory stories around its origin and the attempts to dispose of it rapidly open out to display a complex web – artfully appearing on stage by the end – of interested parties with conflicting motives. Anna herself moves frequently in and out of our sympathies as she naively attempts to deal with the bureaucracy but then displays contrary behaviours at home.

Anna tells fairy stories, and perhaps the whole play is a fabrication of her mind as she slowly unravels over the course of months while events both within and out of her control turn against her. But what if the events she discusses are imagined? Is Anna paranoid or am I?

The performance of Popov is hugely affecting. She carries the entire show with aplomb, moving nimbly between portrayals of very different characters. She sings, she utilises props, she takes us with her into the chill mood behind the Iron Curtain at this time. The use of space, lighting and the raw set design suit the performance and the tightly written, almost sparse script, perfectly.

The very slight, surreal nature of the production as a whole is particularly effective against the backdrop of world politics today. One leaves with an inkling of discomfort and almost dread that lingers uncomfortably, yet I can’t help scratching at it.

At La Mama Courthouse until 22 December


Photography by Ponch Hawkes




Unexpectedly moving…

By Anastasia Russell-Head

Cafe Scheherazade is a tale of survival, of hope, of culture, place and time. Based on Arnold Zable’s novel of the same name, this play tells the story of proprietors Masha and Avram Zeleznikow and three regulars at their café in 1990s St Kilda. They all emigrated to Australia as Jewish refugees after World War II and come together five decades later to tell their stories to a young journalist, Martin.

Drawing both laughs and tears from the audience (for me the image of a young exiled Jewish boy in Shanghai discovering an old man practicing Tai Chi in the misty dawn was unexpectedly moving), the importance of telling and knowing history is revealed and debated as the protagonists slowly reveal their moving personal stories.

Performances from the cast were uniformly strong, with Richard Bligh and Marta Kaczmarek especially standing out. The staging at fortyfivedownstairs evoked the modest post-war styling of the café, with its vinyl seating and laminate tables. Unfortunately sometimes the clarity of speech was lost in the “boomy” space, but otherwise Adrienne Chisholm’s deceptively simple design was very successful, with the audience surrounding the action on three sides.

Music is used to great effect in this production, with Ernie Gruner and Justin Marshall providing a superb Klezmer-based live soundtrack.

The story of displaced people escaping persecution and building a new home in a foreign country is particularly relevant in Australia today, and the stories told in this play take on a new poignancy in light of recent political debate. Engaging, affecting, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended.

Café Scheherazade

A play based on the novel by Arnold Zable

Written by Therese Radic

Directed by Bagryana Popov

Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane

Until 11 September

Tuesday – Saturday 8pm

Sunday 5pm

Matinees 2pm Wed 24 & 31 Aug

4pm Sat 27 Aug & 3 Sep

$45 / $40 / $37.50

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com