The first play in the 2009 B-Sharp season has arrived and it’s as gut wrenching and difficult to watch as many plays have been in this space in recent times. Written by Russian Playwright Vassily Sigarev, Translation by Sasha Dugdale and “Localised” by Ian Meadows and the company, Ladybird is a brave step into a desperate and hungry world.

During the “welcome speech” from Belvoir’s front of house staff manager Damien, with the usual spiel about drinks in the theatre, turning off mobile phones etc, we are reassured about the set… “…and feel free to sit on the far left side, its perfectly safe.” The set is safe, sure: but the experience is anything but.

Junk: televisions, chairs, garbage, broken furniture in a frozen state of tumble cascade from back from back stage. The world is in a state of decay, rust, ruin. We are greeted by the vacant stare of “The Waster” (Slava Orel) , a hunched “Dima” (Ian Meadows) and a prostrate Lera (Sophie Ross) as they wait. Clever use of light – a fallen bedside lamp- courtesy of Luiz Pampolha, reveals a dirty world, of worn out, used things. Things and people. Even Dima’s friend Slavick (Eamon Farren) uses/is used up by drugs.

It is the night before Dima heads to the army, and he is throwing himself a farewell party. His neighbour/friend Lera (Sophie Ross) arrives at his apartment block known as “dead or alive” due to its proximity to the adjoining cemetery with cousin Jules (Yael Stone). The party hasn’t quite started, with Slavick slavering for some gear, The Waster pleading for some alcohol, Dima preparing some stolen memorial plaques for re-sale, Jules sweetly listening, and Lera perpetually reciting lists of things she’s going to do as soon as she is able to claim the $25, 000 prize (which awaits her once she buys something from Globoshop for $200.) When finally Arkasha, the local middleman of metal products arrives, with party snacks, wine bladder and weigh scales- a fresh world of desperation unfolds.

According to director Lee Lewis’s quote in the Ladybird press release: “Take one samovar, one hammer, one sickle, one cold war, one McDonald’s franchise, mix in a litre of Red Bull, put it in a blender, and serve chilled in a Hoyts souvenir AUSTRALIA cup. Now you start to get an idea of the landscape of Ladybird. It’s wild!” artfully assisted by a suite of extraordinary designers: Justin Nardella (Set Designer), Alice Babidge (Costume Designer), Luiz Pampolha (Lighting Designer), Stefan Gregory (Sound Designer), Andrew Wholley (A/V Designer), Lewis has created a world of raw and brutal desperation. Loyalties are fickle and fractured, power is absolute and violence is immediate and easy.

It is the cast that is most impressive about this production, Ian Meadows gives a fun yet powerful performance as Dima, pulsing with energy and yet squeaking with awkward boyish humour. Yael Stone is delightfully light and translucent as Jules, balancing the rough and damaged (yet phenomenal) Sophie Ross. Slava Orel’s portrayal of Dima’s frail immigrant father is complimented by a diversion – in his native tongue Russian: a poetic insight into the original text. Adam Booth’s sturdy and powerful business man is succinct and crisp, whilst Eamon Farren’s Slavick is malleable and languid.
Left to ruminate the implications of this play: the world and characters within, I am not completely convinced of the end of the play: whether this is truly a sign of hope, of the desperate finally empowered? Or is this merely a severing of this location to start the same pattern over somewhere else? What are their real options in this situation? Although this is billed as a black comedy, this is more “black” than “comedy.” Despite my reservations regarding the end of this play, this production is powerful and intense as it reverberates through me like the revving engine of a second hand station wagon.

Loyalty, parental responsibility, desperation, damage and destruction are tightly knotted together in this fist of a play: which surely packs a punch to your gut.