Proudly standing out as the only show staged in a swimming pool (this year), Brodsky Station provides a surreal and visually stunning look at the life of Russian poet and Nobel laureate Joesph Brodsky. A combination of recorded dialogue, live actors, and audio/visual displays, this experimental theatre piece will certainly give you something to think about.
Two actors are present, one of whom plays Brodsky himself, and they each take a turn in the swimming pool – with the other left to pace the edge alongside the audience. Broadly speaking, the performance takes a chronological look at the poet's life, ranging from political imprisonment to emigration to America. At each stage, an image is projected of a train pulling up to a station to introduce that scene. In between, the two characters speak to each other about Brodsky's life – although for most of the play it remains unclear what their relationship is, and Brodsky is referred to as 274.
All of this made for an intriguing performance, which kept me rapt with attention throughout. Despite not having any dialogue themselves, the actors are able to add to the disquieting atmosphere, keeping the audience aware that something is not quite right. The use of light on the swimming pool makes for an exquisite set and the headphones given to each member of the audience allow us to listen in either Russian or English. Fittingly, Brodsky's poems are used throughout, which makes it all the more moving.
Not knowing anything about Joseph Brodsky's life, I found the surreal aspects more difficult to follow; they made a lot more sense after I did some heavy Googling. At times it did feel like this was a gorgeous art installation rather than a play, with the swimming pool setting not necessarily being crucial to the performance.
Brodsky Station is is best described as an impression of the poet's life using light and image, rather than an accurate depiction of events. It's intriguing show which fans of site-specific work will enjoy, as long as they're prepared for something verging more on a work of art than a piece of traditional theatre. It's certainly memorable – and there are some beautiful lines taken from Brodsky's writing.