"A Nineteenth Century Russian drama"
by remotegoat reviewer on 09/11/13

To Theatro Technis, then, on a sodden November night to see Charm Offensive's production of The Parasite (more commonly translated as “Fortune's Fool”) by Turgenev.

As soon as the curtain rises, Turgenev, the man who gave us the concept of Nihilism, throws us into all the somnabulism and simmering frustrations of rural Russia in the Nineteenth Century with a game of chess between two men - theatrical shorthand for the human battle against overwelming and implacable fate.

So far, so Russian. Soon, though, the rustic trance is broken by a visit from newlyweds from Moscow, freshly arrived to inspect their estate, and soon Kuzovkin, the parasite (or fortune's fool) of the title is goaded into to blurt out a secret which turns the set-up on its head.

The staging of this play is minimalistic, barely extending beyond a table, chairs and a sofa, but the acting is uniformly high class.

Simon Brandon playing the servant Trembinsky is perfectly lugubrious and sly. Steven Langley puts in a fine central performance as Kuzovkin. Naomi Stafford playing the young bride Olga is also excellent – and their scenes together are where the real sparks fly in this otherwise somewhat underwelming slice of drama.

There is barely an hour of actual on-stage action here, and the play suffers from its brevity. There are nine characters on stage but we barely scratch the surface of many of their stories. It feels like too little time is spent building up the tension and when it is resolved, the overall effect is somewhat underpowered.

As a result, one wonders at the wisdom of undertaking a “collaborative adaptation” of the play as opposed to using a standard translation of the original text. I am far from being an expert on Turgenev's work, a cursory reading of “Fathers and Sons” twenty years ago being more or less the sum of it. But I left the theatre wanting to have seen and experienced more.

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