Petrograd, 1916: three men walk intently around a small table upon which is a fine china plate upon which is a single cup cake topped with bright pink icing. They examine the cup cake scrupulously and regard it with awe – for this same cup cake may determine their own fortunes and the future of Russia itself!
From the opening scene, The Rasputin Affair by Kate Mulvany, is absurd, camp and brilliant. The play reenacts the final hours of the infamous Gregori Rasputin based on known or accepted facts, with Mulvany putting the devil in the details. The cast of five are like a Vaudevillian troupe, capable of precision banter as well as physical humour.
Sean O’Shea is an imposing, mesmerising Rasputin, charismatic in his sermonising, comical in his stubborn unwillingness to die.
Playing a Rik Mayall version of Prince Felix is Tom Budge, ramping up the camp, and contorting his face and body in a virtuoso display of elasticity.
Zindzi Okenyo plays the servant, Minya, sassy, confident and full of surprises.
Hamish Michael is a matinee idol styled Dimitri, prim, handsome and ambitious, but hopelessly vulnerable to love.
And finally, the always wonderful John Gaden, self-aware as the guileless, ungainly Vlad, throwing himself at the slapstick antics with complete abandon.
Director John Sheedy has done a great job of integrating each character to create a synergistic whole, with no one looking uncomfortable and everyone appearing to have a lot of fun.
Working with the fairly limiting stage area of The Ensemble, Set Designer Alicia Clements has created a functional and picturesque (wink) backdrop that is almost a sixth character.
Ra…Ra…Rasputin! See it now.
Until Apr 30, Various performance times. Ensemble Theatre, 78 McDougall St, Kirribilli. $37-$67. Tickets & Info: www.ensemble.com.au
Review by Rita Bratovich.