Friday, 20 April 2018

Sami in Paradise, Belvoir

Back to Belvoir and to a stripped-down production based on Nikolai Erdman's "The Suicide". Relocated from early-Stalin-era Russia to an unlocated refugee camp, this retains the story of people in desperate need who take the apparent suicide attempt of a friend as a chance to carry all kinds of messages into the outside world. It's played with verve and energy but ... possibly as a product of the way the script was devised (the various cast members collaborated and semi-improvised their roles into the final form), it does tend to lack cohesion - feeling more like a series of sketches than one central production. Yalin Ozucelik has a strong sense of humourous self-pitying misery as the titular Sami, and while the story centres around him, his wife (Victoria Haralabidou) and his mother-in-law (Paula Arundell), it continues on quite nicely. But as events expand, the sense of control starts to slip.

The relocation does appear, alas, largely skin-deep. While the cast is individually excellently talented and the music of Mahan Ghobadi and Hamend Sadeghi gives a nice energetic background, this ends up being light-hearted shenanigans rather than something that really penetrates. Satire needs to be worked like surgery, and instead it seems this is kinda a bit of random slice-and-dicing.

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