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Review: Inga, at The Calder Bookshop

Extraordinary English-language translation of original work published in Russian in 1928, follows lives of Soviet factory workers

09 November, 2018 — By John Courtenay O’Connor

Reminiscent of the Unity Theatre – Inga

INGA is the English-language translation of the original work, published in Russian in 1928 by Anatole Glebov.

The main protagonist Inga (Tracey Ann Wood) is the intellectual organiser of a clothing factory, who is childless by choice. Representing modern Soviet womanhood, she is a tough negotiator, a believer in free love and openly having a sexual relationship with one of the husband/workers at the factory, Dmitri (Jeremiah O’Connor).

While Inga is seen as too aggressive by the pioneers of women’s emancipation, Nastasya Petrovna (Josephine Liptrott) represents the old-fashioned wife, a product of the pre-Soviet male-dominated world, which includes physical assaults from her husband. The women come together in a community house attached to the clothing factory.

Male/female relationships and women to one another are developed against Stalin’s five-year plan. Other aspects of early Soviet environment are highlighted: a planned economy, lack of consumer preference, differentiation between products and commodities, a more humane factory experience and creches for working mothers.

Glebov’s play is multi-layered and one can only wonder how much has been lost in translation. The character of Glafira and her journey from domestic drudgery to a self-reliant woman is a very positive aspect of the piece.

The play could be seen as a misogynistic warning about women in power, but Glafira remains natural and sympathetic after her emancipation. These are the qualities of the ideal Soviet woman.

Director Luis Gayol’s production concentrates on character development, sometimes at the expense of pace. There are many fine performances – Tracey Ann Wood is a very believable Inga, as is the rejected Dmitri, and many lesser characters come through: John Terence’s angry Ryzhov, Stephanie Ellyne’s bourgeois Veronica and Mark Shaer’s Nemtsevitch.

Well staged at the John Calder Bookshop Theatre, this is an extraordinary piece reminiscent of productions at Camden Town’s “theatre of the left” – the Unity Theatre.

Until November 25
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