Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a sniper with the Soviet Red Army in the Second World War. With 309 confirmed kills, Pavlichenko is the most successful female sniper in history, and is regarded as one of the best military snipers of all time. I, Sniper tells her story.
The beginning of the show is in Russian, as a group women march onto the stage and Pavlichenko is awarded a medal. Thankfully, the next scene is in English, as the show goes back in time to before the war. Her childhood and her marriage to Alexei Pavlichenko are briefly skimmed over; the real action starts as Pavlichenko gains work at a factory, and picks shooting as the worker activity that appeals to her most.
The cast is made up of eight women and one man; all of the performers have multiple roles. Lyudmila Pavlichenko is in each scene in two forms – once as the narrator, and also as one of the participants in the action. Each of these two roles is played by a different actress for each scene, and all eight women play Pavlichenko multiple times. This is done really well and works as an excellent visual metaphor of the many women who fought in the Soviet Red Army.
It is not difficult to follow who is Pavlichenko at any one time, as the narrator always wears the medal from the opening scene and the other is always named as part of the action. Still, there are a couple of clumsy transitions, where one Pavlichenko is still leaving the stage while the next one is entering; but the cast are uniformly excellent and each of the women bring something of their own to the role.
The set is sparse, with three large packing crates are used to serve as seats, tables and so on. These crates are moved around far more frequently than required, and can be quite distracting; it would perhaps have been better if the movements were reserved to cover some of the transitions of Pavlichenko's character. There was also a slight issue with the synchronisation of firing a gun and the resulting sound of a gunshot, but it is a minor quibble.
I, Sniper is an excellent production that showcases a talented cast. The utilisation of multiple performers for the role of Lyudmila Pavlichenko is well-conceived and well-executed, and helps make this show stand out from the many historical dramas at the Fringe.