Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: Chernobyl@30 at Newcastle Alphabetti

Landmark Production Arrives in the North East


Monday 26th – Wednesday 28th September 2016 - Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Thursday 29th September 2016 - Arts Centre Washington 7.30pm

Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October 2016 - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham

30 years ago, on the 26th April 1986, reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power station exploded. The effect of that accident in the Ukraine was felt across Europe and even in the UK. Hexham based Theatre Sans FrontiƩres has collaborated with the Ukrainian Arabesky Theatre to bring an updated version of their show to the region.

A significant part of the production is a film which includes eye witness accounts from Serhly Myrnyj, a writer/researcher at Kylv-Mohyla Academy. Like many students at the time, he was sent in to the area as a poorly trained liquidator with the job of cleaning up the mess.  Testament also comes from the US journalist Mary Myclo, who has Ukranian parents, and visited the region ten years later and was amazed at how nature had flourished.

The fascinating film describes much of the effects of the aftermath of the disaster. A number of interviews with Cumbrian residents have been woven in thanks to Nick May’s 1989 film The Hills Are Alive.

In front of the film, director Svitlana Oleshko has added a number of live action sequences. These are delivered by Mykhaylo Barbara and Nataliia Tsymbal from the Ukraine and the UK’s John Cobb, Sarah Kemp amd Robert Nicholson. These sequences helped illustrate the experience of the army reservists. From the limited training and testing of radioactivity, through to the actual cleaning up and decontamination tasks.  There is a sense of hopelessness to the tasks at times, though they are shovelling apples rather than radioactive fragments.

The show also features a lot of water from the showers and the rain. Perhaps the moment when one of the cast is slowly soaked through is symbolic of the rain that landed on the UK afterwards and people did not know if it was safe. For a small scale show, the water effects are highly effective.

As we are about to restart the UK nuclear power station building programme, the show comes at a timely point in the debate over our nations energy policy. Chernobyl @ 30 is not your average theatre production. Striking film combines with live action to mark the 30th anniversary of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents. Tonight’s sell out audience was informed as much as they were entertained. The worrying after effect of seeing the show is a feeling of “it couldn’t happen here, could it?” If the show starts a debate amongst the audience then that is a positive reaction.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver the North East Theatre Guide – follow Stephen at @panic_c_button

Read the original North East Theatre Guide preview:

The show lasts about one hour, is performed in English and features video mainly in English with some scenes in Ukrainian with English subtitles and is suitable for ages 16+ years (some nudity).
TSF is grateful to the following for their support: Arts Council England, The British Council, Queen’s Hall Arts, Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council.
Chernobyl@30 Tour 2016:
Until Wednesday 28th September, 7.30pm - Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th: £7 Full Price/£5 Concession BOOK ONLINE HERE
Venue: Alphabetti Theatre, The Basement, 18 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AW Website:

Thursday 29th September, 7.30pm - Arts Centre Washington 7.30pm
Tickets £8.50 / £6.00 (conc)

Details and tickets:

Friday 30th September,
8pm and Saturday 1st October, 2.30pm & 8pm - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham.  Tickets: Bitesize £12.50; play only £7.50 

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