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Donkey Heart

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Moses Raine’s engaging new play – directed by his sister, Nina, whose own plays include the Olivier-nominated Tribes – is set in a Moscow flat inhabited by three generations of the same family.

Chekhov casts almost as long as shadow over these characters’ lives as that of communism. An air of secrecy and mistrust still prevails, but here the source of all the tension is straying father Ivan rather than something more sinister.

Raine really conveys what it is to live in such cramped surroundings, exploring the psychological impact of that lack of personal space, both physical and emotional. But while there are many moments of elegant interplay between the characters, the mechanics of the plot often feel cumbersome, and the character of Englishman abroad Tom seems to exist primarily to generate exposition.

It’s difficult to locate the family economically and socially, and the play only seems peripherally concerned with the realities of living in modern day Moscow. James Turner’s richly detailed set is, however, a delight, immaculate and truly transporting: the time-worn parquet, the icons, the ashtrays, the incongruous toaster. And there are some rich, rounded performances, particularly from Lisa Diveney as fiery daughter Sasha and Patrick Godfrey as the grandfather who survived the Leningrad siege.

Natasha Tripney

  • Old Red Lion, London
  • May 9-31
  • Author: Moses Raine
  • Director: Nina Raine
  • Producer: Chris Foxon
  • Cast: Lisa Diveney, Emily Bruni, Patrick Godfrey, Alex Large, James Musgrave, Wendy Nottingham, Paul Wyett
  • Running time: 2hrs

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.