Bliss ★★★★ Finborough Theatre | May 17 - Jun 11, 2022

Bliss is Fraser Grace's theatrical adaptation of the short story, The River Potudan, by Russian writer, Andrey Platonov. It is the tale of Nikita, a young soldier, who returns to his village home after the Russian Civil War. It is 1921, and he seeks to resume his pre-war life, courting a young medical student, Lyuba, and trying to re-establish himself in the world he once knew. However, his dream is dashed by both his own demons and the external forces unleashed in the conflict he has participated in. Ostensibly a story about post-traumatic stress syndrome, Nikita's struggle also serves as a grim parable of Russian history. Written in 1937, Platonov's story exposes the loss of idealism that followed Lenin's triumph and underlines all the horrors of Stalin's takeover of the revolution. Jesse Rutherford is positively haunting in his portrayal of Nikita, the once idealistic young man who is reduced to unfeeling impassivity, while Bess Roche does a terrific job of capturing the naïveté and hopefulness of those not directly involved in the conflict. As Zhenya and Paulina, Caroline Rippin is quite amazing in her ability to transform herself into two such dissimilar characters. She is both believable and unrecognisable as she moves from one to the other. Patrick Morris as Mikhail and Vlass does not have the same stretch to execute as both his characters are exemplars of the cunning peasant/survivor figure, but he does an excellent job of individuating them. Jeremy Killick as both the the symbolic tramp and the Investigator is suitably menacing. Director and designer, Paul Bourne, has given us a fine rendering of Nikita's long, dark, journey, made somewhat unnecessarily longer by a lot of rearranging of the set. Nevertheless, this is a beautifully acted piece that explores the trauma of war and resonates with the horror of contemporary events. This is a production that continues in the Finborough's tradition of mounting high-quality theatre.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo © Jack Sain

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