The Litvinenko Project is a site-responsive piece of theatre, but don’t let that buzz word put you off. Quite rightly, a play about the Russian spy who was poisoned with polonium-laced tea should be staged in a café, and this show is just one of many innovative pieces that make up SPRINT; the festival that is aptly named ‘a festival of new theatre for the adventurous’.
You don’t have to be too adventurous to see the Litvinenko Project, though. The two man cast of 2MagpiesTheatre make everyone feel welcome; greeting you with tea as you arrive and asking what, if anything, you know about Alexander Litvinenko. Because this is the main aim of the production: re-igniting the conversation about this controversial case, which is yet to be solved.
And so, this is a piece to see if you like to grapple with the politically ambiguous; a sort of Sherlock Holmes tale of mystery played out by two gifted storytellers, but with all the sickening reality of Litvinenko’s murder brought home to the audience. The structure of the piece made me think of a stylised documentary, with its artful use of repetition, “This is Alexander Litvinenko who will die today” and it’s progression through Litvinenko’s last movements via the medium of well-selected props and thoughtfully crafted movement and dialogue.
There is some dark humour in this piece but on the whole it’s serious in its intent, and as an audience member you are quickly drawn into their earnest portrayal of Litvinenko’s tragic end. The 2Magpies team, Tom Barnes and Matt Wilks, combine their storytelling with engaging use of audience participation to give a sense of the underhand dealings going on around them, and, with the current behaviour of Russian politicians in the forefront of all our minds, the play clearly emphasises the need for openness and fair debate in the international political arena. This is a well devised piece of theatre that blends political thought and dramatic imagination. A great start to the MiddlePeg’s first visit to SPRINT!