The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, by Meg Miroshnik, is a unique and enchanting play. A misty haze looms over the dark and mysterious set of this new production by Boutique Theatre. The superbly directed production by Elizabeth Millington is now currently performing at St. Martins Youth Arts Centre from 19-27 of May.
We follow American ‘orphan’ Annie into tumultuous trip of self-discovery, following along with her Russian Jewish mother’s catchphrase, ‘Sleep with one eye open’. Annie carries her mother’s advice on her sleeve as she enters into a world of hag witches, grizzly bears, and fashion-obsessed girls.
Anna stays with her mother’s old friend in Moscow. A mysterious and magical old lady, she fattens Anna up with food — and strange eerie stories. Anna meets two young women who befriend her with tales of woe, and of survival. There’s Masha, in love and oppressed by her grizzly bear spouse; and Katya, a high-end prostitute with a penchant for expensive handbags.
The elaborate sets are intricate and shabby, reflecting a seedy and impoverished underbelly. Perfect for Annie to not only learn about good and evil — but to live up to her mother’s request to perfect her Russian and drop her American accent. Annie’s innocence is beguiling and quaint as she is roped into life-threatening situations. When Masha disappears, it is up to Annie to save the day.
Miroshnik has beautifully woven a Russian fairytale into a poignant reflection on modern Russia and turned a simple idea into a transformative tale of growth and heroism. We travel back in time to old Czarist Russia and the recent past of the Soviet Union. There is an insightful contemporary post-Soviet twist.
The play is a disheveling blend of Old Russian folk tales brewing in a Soviet samovar sweetened with modern Russian bling. Despite the gloomy seething, themes of greed and corruption, this play is hilariously funny, clever, and witty.
The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls entertains, enchants, and is sexy to boot. Highly recommended.
Flora Georgiou is a Melbourne-based freelance writer.