THE short absurdist comedy The Harvest, by Belorussian playwright Pavel Pryazhko, is set on a stage covered with grass and full of apples hanging enticingly ready to be picked, in the UK premiere production directed by Michael Boyd at Bath’s Ustinov Studio until Saturday 11th April.
Four young people, two boys and two girls, are working in an orchard, collecting apples and putting them into crates. Someone has been there before, as there are full crates in the orchard, as well as empty ones.
As the day progresses their relationships shift. Valerii seems to be the leader, knowing more about the variety of apples than the others.
Both girls flirt, just a bit.
Egor shows off.
All four are astonishingly inept and accident prone, all are hypochondriac and disaster is always just around the next corner.
By the time they leave, walking wounded, yet oddly pleased with their achievements, they have ruined the crop they are presumably paid to bring in.
The playwright, whose original was translated by Sasha Dugdale, sees the play as a reflection on life in his native country, a fragment of the old USSR, with a ruler seen by some as the last dictator. It is desperately poor but the opening up of the old eastern bloc also opened up expectations for a generation without the old certainties of communism. These young people have the toys, the clothes and the tools of the West, but have no idea how to do anything.
At first the audience can’t quite believe the hilarious stupidity of this quartet, but it does set you wondering about a generation that can’t read maps, can’t add up, can’t cook and has no interest in acquiring practical skills.
You can interpret The Harvest in many ways, as with many absurdist or surrealist plays. You could see it as a sad satire on the hopelessness of young people adrift in an urban wilderness and disconnected from their rural roots. Or perhaps it is a biting political commentary on post-soviet society.
Dyfan Dwyfor, Daffydd Llyr Thomas, Beth Park and Lindsey Campbell bring them vibrantly to life.