Review – Kursk – Young Vic

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About a week ago I got an email from one of the West End Whingers, advising me that per this review, Kursk (at the Young Vic) was a show not to be missed.

I went and saw it last night, and I have to say, they were absolutely right. It’s set inside a submarine, with you, the audience member, as part of the set – standing in the galleys of the boat, experiencing what it’s like to have people living on top of you (the actors walk on certain paths that require them to brush by you, though there’s actually plenty of room to move around). Most of the action happens on the lower floor, though views are mostly best from the top – I’d advise avoiding the top wall backing the corridor to the theater as you can’t see the scenes set in the crew quarters at all, as they happen under your feet, nor the scenes in the sonar room, which happen to your right and behind you. I thought my seats on the floor near the crew’s mess were quite good, though after an hour of standing, my feet were really aching, and there was still another 30-40 minutes to go.

The sound design was incredible – ting-y noises up and to the back (for me) really defined the space, and the explosions that shook the ship had me leaping out of my skin as if the building itself had actually rocked. (I about expected the floor to tilt like in the space exploration ride at Disneyland.) And the set moved, though I don’t really want to say how. Suffice it to say it was an immersive experience that, in my mind, put the plotless meanderings of Punchdrunk to shame. Yeah, we were “there” for Faust, but we created the space last night for Kursk.

Substantially this play is about what life is like for men who work on submarines, with a heavy historical flavor of Cold War spy games. It’s only a little bit about the Kursk, really. But it’s great. And while other shows have moved me more or perhaps had more heart-string-plucking plots, this was an intense experience of the sort that could only happen in a theater, and not in any West end, cruise boat sized music hall. It could only be done black box, and that, to me, means you’d better get yourself down to the Young Vic right away or you’re going to miss a truly amazing show that isn’t likely to be remounted in London any time soon.

(This review is for a performance that took place on June 19th, 2009. Kursk continues through June 27th. Don’t forget to wear supportive shoes.)

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One Response to “Review – Kursk – Young Vic”

  1. Best London theater, 2009 « Life in the Cheap Seats – Webcowgirl’s London theatre reviews Says:

    […] of the year: the nominees were: Entertaining Mr Sloane; Kursk; The Mountaintop; Enron; Cock. (Note absolutely nothing from the Donmar this year, for shame). In a […]

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