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Two for the Seesaw review at Piccadilly Theatre, London – ‘enjoyable, but flimsy’

Kirill Safonov and Chulpan Khamatova in Two for the Seesaw at Piccadilly Theatre, London Kirill Safonov and Chulpan Khamatova in Two for the Seesaw at Piccadilly Theatre, London
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Two for the Seesaw’s history with Russia’s Sovremennik Theatre is richer than the play itself.

Translated from writer William Gibson’s 1959 Broadway debut, it was a rare example of an American drama crossing Cold War lines when the company premiered it in 1962.

Galina Volchek, Sovremennik’s artistic director for a whopping 47 years, made her directorial debut with the original Russian production.

Lawyer Jerry Ryan is hiding away in New York after fleeing a broken marriage in Nebraska, when he meets wannabe dancer Gittel Mosca at a party. Tentative romance turns into a tempestuous relationship, as they lick their wounds and try to move on.

Volchek’s production – the second in the company’s mini West End season – amplifies the mirroring and contrasting of the play as Ryan and Mosca communicate across their adjacent apartments.

Damir Ismagilov’s lighting design reflects their differing personalities and changing moods. A tangle of metal pipes encircles them on Pavel Kaplevich’s set.

The pair are played by two of Russia’s biggest stars. Chulpan Khamatova makes the greatest impression as Mosca. She brings a volatile edge to her character’s initial manic pixie dream girl kookiness, a resentfulness to her need for Kirill Safonov’s emotionally flailing Ryan.

It’s a welcome shade of grey in a thinly stretched play. There’s an over-written quality to Gibson’s two-hander that feels dated now. At three hours long, it’s an enjoyable but flimsy frame for a tale of two broken people sticking themselves back together again.

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Sovremennik Theatre’s entertaining if thinly-stretched revival