Belka Productions’s latest work, Sunstroke, is a tale of love inspired by Ivan Bunnin’s play Sunstroke¸ and Anton Chekov’s The Lady with the Dog. Oleg Mirochnikov’s production sees two chance encounters, one which sees the married Dmitri Gurov (Stephen Pucci) fall in love with the also married Anna Sergeyevna (Rosy Benjamin), and the other which follows a married woman (Katia Elizarova) and a lieutenant (Oliver King) in a fleeting affair. From the start though, both are destined to end before they have even begun, and thus the action immediately becomes centred on the often distressing and painful effects of love.
Scenes of dialogue are divided by short segments of dance, which see Masumi Saito present a captivating representation of love. However, she moves with such a well-composed grace to create an ever-present and haunting, yet not intrusive, feature of the aesthetic that we see much more in her performance than a romantic love. Her fluidity affords a sensual focus that brings an open and inviting quality to her poise. As the play moves on, her movements spill over into the next scenes to develop a lingering presence that foreshadows the lovers.
Streams of light pour out from under the porches at either end of the traverse stage, creating a watery, moonlit glow over the sand. This at times illusory aesthetic coupled with the dancer’s fleeting poses allows us, for the most part, to forget that these are married people committing adultery, and instead the two lover’s stories are tied together through Saito’s emblematic figure. As the production moves on, knowing that their love is doomed, we are drawn more to this ambiguous figure and the emotional turmoil she portrays and less to the specific emotional downfall of the two pairs of lovers. Agnes Treplin’s symmetrical set, along with the use of projections designed by Simon Eves, reflects the erotic and corporeal facet of the lover’s relationships and further aids Mirochnikov’s exploration of the many factors affecting these couple’s affairs. The set is at first deceptively simple in appearance yet transforms to become another element that encompasses and pressurises these couples through images of tangled bed sheets and the loitering presence of the woman behind an translucent screen.
Born out of this fusion of physical, vocal and aesthetic representations of love is a frustrating and unnerving focus on the loss of love, and the lack of emotional victory over societal constraints such as marriage. Sunstroke consists of a capable ensemble, with Benjamin and Pucci developing a particularly credible connection, yet it is Saito who bears the emotional brunt of the tale and does so with an enchanting poise that leaves a poignant and lasting impression.
Sunstroke is playing at The Platform Theatre until 21 September. For more information and tickets, see the Platform Theatre website.