Natalia Vorozhbyt’s touching addition to the Traverse’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint season proves to be a subtle and multi-layered meditation on loss, both of family and of country.
Sasha (Paul Cunningham), Katya (Jill Riddiford) and Oksana (Jenny Hulse) sit around the table in their Kyiv home. What gives this situation a somewhat surreal edge is that the women are preparing a funeral meal for Sasha, who died a few days earlier of a heart attack. This fact does not, however, prevent Sasha from taking an active part in the discussion between the women. A colonel in the Ukrainian army, husband to Katya and stepfather to Oksana, he has no intention of resting in peace when his country and his family are threatened.
As the women remember him, their reminiscences are in turn tender, scathing and humorous as they work their way through the grieving process. But an overwhelming sense of loss – in Katya’s case for a husband, a good man when he was off the drink as his widow grudgingly admits; for a father figure for Oksana who is doubly bereft, her partner having fled the scene leaving her about to give birth to their child; and for a country that not long ago regained its identity but now faces the prospect of once again being subsumed into the Soviet Union – permeates the play from start to finish. And of course, for Sasha, the loss of his life, leaving him unable to do anything but (admittedly noisily) look on in frustration.
The script is strong, the characters convincingly drawn, complex, well-rounded and expertly played by the cast. They could have been the neighbours I met in my brief stay in a flat in the city. I can say no more than that I left the theatre touched more deeply than I have been in a long time.