Now here’s a first and a SPOILER ALERT but as this was a first preview we cannnot guarantee it will happen again.* Pity.
Maxim Gorky’s Children of the Sun** may have begun with a whimper but it certainly ended with a bang: a stage explosion so intense it probably finished off a few senior members of the audience (obviously we survived to tell the tale). The heat could be felt several rows back in the stalls. The shock was so great, Phil let out an involuntary “Jesus!” and possibly a little wee. But even more excitingly – such was its impact – it set off the Lyttleton’s fire alarm.
Theatre doesn’t get much better than this.
This is what the audience left the theatre talking about. What more does one need to say? It’s tempting to stop here.
Protasov (Geoffrey Streatfeild, charismatic) is an idealistic scientist preoccupied with perfecting mankind just before the Russian revolution came along with similar aspirations. The stage is filled with the paraphernalia of his chemical experimentation. So, in deference to his obsession we have plundered the periodic table to gather our thoughts…
(By) Bunnium Ms Bunny Christie designs – impressively, with lots of glass panelled doors, passages and a laboratory visible off the vast main room. But did we spot the trace element (Dv) Déjàvuium?
(Hw) Howardium Mr Howard Davies directs efficiently. When the National get a Russian text there is usually one sure way forward; Howard’s way.
(Pt) Plotium Cholera is breaking out. Protasov’s experiments may be leaking. The villagers are restless. Some think his wicked leaks may be the cause of disease. A mob (free radicals?) turn up at the gates. Protasov’s wife Yelena (Justine Mitchell) may be in love with an artist, Vageen (Gerald Kyd). Someone else is definitely in love with Protasov…
(Gc) Glenncloseium Very unstable. Sister of the local vet Boris (Paul Higgins), Melaniya (Lucy Black, touchingly unhinged) is nuts about Protasov. No, actually she’s just nuts. Fortunately the scientist is so detatched from the world he barely notices her passion even though she offers to do anything for him. This she proves by repeatedly getting down on her knees in front of him. He disappoints her by suggesting she supplies him with fresh eggs every day..
(Om) Omletteium By chance Melaniya keeps chickens and turns up with her eggs fresh and ready for him. Unfortunately her eggs are not utilised in the way she desires. Who’s more cracked? Melaniya or the eggs? We saw this as a metaphor. This bullying, self-obsessed group of people throw them around the stage, smashing them and causing an awfully icky mess. Poor Melaniya. Poor stagehands. Distressing waste of eggs. Our mothers would be horrified.
(Mum) Mummium We assume the household’s dining table is a periodic table, for it is conjoined with one where Protasov experiments with chemicals. Someone also stands on it. Awfully unhygienic. Again, our mothers would be horrified.
(Ny) Nannythemium Nanny (Maggie McCarthy) to Professor Protasov and his sickly sister Liza (Chekhov’s wife originated this role apparently, here it is taken by Emma Lowndes) bustles efficiently trying to keep order amongst her children of the sun. She’s always being despatched to heat up water in an off-stage samovar for the experiments. Phil enjoyed a moment musing on The Nanny and the Professor.
(Mph) Metaphorium The characters are rather intense, prone to talking over each other or in metaphors whilst forming unstable bonds.
(Mm) Medium The vet has the gift of foresight. Commenting that he’s seen three motor cars, he predicts accidents and that people will no longer walk.
(Df) Dwarfium Big Bang theory. The play begins with some loud banging (which is neatly – if predictably – echoed at the end) from a worker as he appears to break into a chorus of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ “Heigh-Ho”. Yes, really!
(Otoh) Ontherotherhandium We do get to see one of Protasov’s experiments live on stage.
(Mt) Maggieum Thatcher was once a research chemist. Protasov imerses himself in chemistry at the expense of his artist wife. Science over the Arts? A timely tribute.
(Umm) Ummium So, apart from that, what’s it saying then? No idea really. Didn’t buy a programme. You don’t come here for insight do you?
(Td) Tedium This is a highly critical element that can sometimes be discovered in (Ad) Auditorium. Only small traces were detected.
PS (Ps) Proscenium The Lyttleton has one. Naturally it’s the Whingers’ favourite element.
* Our spies report there was no fire alarm at the second preview. You see, sometimes it does pay to get in early.
** Not to be confused with the proactive consciousness platform initiating conscious evolution through activities that build unity and global coherence AKA Ambassadors of Light Assisting the Ascension of Humanity