Counting Sheep (The Vaults, 17 February 2019)
This immersive production telling the story of a real life couple whom met in the terrifying Kiev uprising in 2014 baffles just as much as it entertains. Although this is understandable, as you'd imagine getting caught up in an uprising would be fairly confusing, the narrative which is incredibly moving gets lost in the noise.
Upon entering the space, you are reminded that you are here to stage a revolution. The 'premium protesters' (AKA most expensive tickets) are invited to sit, eat and drink in a traditional Ukranian feast, whilst the 'observers' sit and watch the action unfold. As the revolution takes place and you join the uprising, building the barricades and stomping along to the music, as exciting and fun as this is, we are unsure what exactly we are protesting. The banging of drums and singing overwhelms the narrative as we can barely hear the storytellers, and as we are led around the space carrying bricks and wearing hard hats, we have no idea quite what we are revolting against. For the observers this must be tedious to watch, as us protesters shuffle around to the right position for each scene. We hear snippets of the two leads as Mark and Marichka Marczyk, following their first hand experience as a Canadian journalist and Ukrainian musician whom meet in the middle of an excitable protest which soon turns into a scene of devastation. Snippets however are not enough for us to understand truly what is going on.
There are some beautiful moments, as the traditional music and euro pop fuse to create a battlecry, and moving physical scenes in which direction of the Belarus Free Theatre really shines. Sadly though much of the dialogue which intersperses the piece is difficult to pick out amongst the crowd, and only the bare bones of their story remains. At the end of the performance we read the cause of the riots on projections, and we are told what happened to Mark and Marichka Marczyk. It is heartwarming, yet stark and shocking - however it feels like if we could have heard the characters it could have been incorporated into the production without needing this epilogue. A slight shame for what is still an exciting experience.