PIAF 2017 – Opus No.7

Review by Ali MacGregor

Opus No. 7 is theatre like you’ve never seen it before. I went into the show with high expectations, but nothing could have prepared me for the spectacular performance I was about to witness.

Structurally, the show consists of two distinct and very different acts, ‘Genealogy’ and ‘Shostakovich’, separated by an intermission, which combine to form the whole experience that is Opus No. 7. Together, the two acts explore some of the darkest times in 20th century European history, particularly the Jewish Holocaust and the oppressive regime of the former Soviet Union. Without relying heavily on narrative like some theatre, Opus No. 7 instead functions as a performance piece, a work of art, that strives to express the profound tragedy, suffering and heartache of the time.

‘Genealogy’ is a devastatingly poignant exploration of memory, loss, and grief. Hundreds of old children’s shoes tumble out from the walls, followed by pairs of glasses, as one of the actors slowly walks a pair of beautiful, bright red children’s slippers across the stage. X-ray images held by the actors transform into photographs and moving pictures projected onto the back wall, representing all those who were lost. The actors pick up pieces of newspaper, reading aloud names and anecdotes, and piecing together the tragedy that surrounds them. It is a stunning piece of theatre, which utilises visual metaphors and symbolism to explore tragedy.

The second half of Opus No. 7, entitled ‘Shostakovich’, builds on the sense of loss and mourning explored in the first half, but instead focuses on the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and his relationship with the Soviet Union.

A enormous puppet, which functions as a symbol representing Mother Russia, becomes one of the central characters of the second act. Expertly maneuvered by at least six actors at a time, she begins as a nurturing figure to a young Shostakovich, but soon dons an SS cap and turns into a murderous, controlling dictator who crushes his artistic creativity and freedom.

Opus No. 7 is a theatrical experience quite unlike any other. Image, sound, music and objects work together on an epic scale to produce a dynamic and visceral work that deals with the complex themes of genocide, censorship, oppression and loss. It is a visually spectacular performance and an extremely effective piece of art that continues to play upon my mind and memory.

Opus No.7 played during Perth International Arts Festival from 21st – 26th February 2017