Royal Exchange Theatre; Friday 7th April 2017
Director Tamara Trunova marked her UK debut at the Royal Exchange with “The People Are Singing” – a sinister and unsettling portrayal of war and its impact on the life of an ordinary child.
Based on the Ukrainian-Russian conflict, the performance lasted just over an hour in the Exchange’s smaller and more intimate Studio setting. Everything about this play was dark: the simple stage arrangement was very dimly lit; the five cast members drifted menacingly in and out of the darkness; and the plot dealt with some very weighty issues: murder, starvation, attempted kidnap – all as experienced by a young girl who has nowhere left to turn.
Given the subject matter this could have been a very depressing night out, but the performance was delivered in a compelling and alluring way, with just enough alternating between the heroine’s repeated journeys into her fantasy dream world and a viable plot line that held the audience’s attention.
At the end of the performance, the people literally did sing: a choir from Manchester’s Ukrainian community took to the stage to bring the performance to an end. And in the bar afterwards, the people sang again: a rousing encore to serenade the audience as the theatre emptied.