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Review - Ice Road

So recently in Bristol, and particularly around the Pervasive Media Studio, there has been a lot of buzz about the latest show from Raucous, Ice Road.

A few weeks ago I went to see Raucous’s writer and creative director, Sharon Clark, give a talk. I was absolutely fascinated by the process that went into making the show, and the stories she gathered from people who lived through the siege of Leningrad, the setting of the play. This kind of site-specific performance is exactly the sort of work I’d love to be creating, so it was fantastic to hear some of the trials and tribulations that go into making a piece like this. It also left me absolutely buzzing and excited to go and experience the show for myself!

That brings us to Thursday evening, when a group of my new coursemates and I tripped cautiously up Jacob’s Wells Road looking for the venue, a disused Edwardian swimming pool. The man stood on the doorstep with a lamp who greeted us with ‘Hello comrades’ told us we had arrived.

We slipped inside, to a dark vestibule, and gave our names to another man sat behind a desk, who with another greeting of ‘comrade’ waved us through to the bar. It felt like I’d just had my papers checked at some Soviet checkpoint. I was in the zone, and the walls plastered with tattered communist propaganda as we made our way to the bar enforced this. The mood was excited, but hushed. Not the usual chatter you get at a pre-show bar. The mood had definitely been effectively set, intensified by a woman in a headscarf making the rounds, distributing flowers from a basket to ‘pay your respects later’.

The show started with a bang, quite literally, and the lights flickered as the boom petered out. Obviously a bombing raid had just began in Leningrad. This is when the actors appeared, and played out a quick scene to introduce us to the characters and the central plot before leading us into the main performance space, a cavernous hall transformed with snow, smoke and an impressive array of scaffolding. I won’t ruin any more of the play for you, except to say that it is certainly not a cheery affair.

The mood conjured was absolutely enthralling – I couldn’t stop running my feet through the fake snow as it was almost magical in such a huge indoor space. The characters were also fantastically fleshed out, the maternal but hardened leader of the group Leah, the timid Stoya, feisty Tati and naïve Kub. The actors were amazing, and the 70-minute performance absolutely flew by with some magical moments – mostly recollections which came to life in projected animations on the walls. The situation was incredibly harrowing – 4 kids struggling to survive on the streets amongst famine and the coldest winter in living memory, however I was glad I had done a little reading up on the siege beforehand as otherwise I’d have been a little lost in some of the key reference points of the plot. This was perhaps an oversight, given that it’s not a particularly well known period of history here, and one of the reasons behind the show was to spread awareness of it.

 

 

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