A Russian Doll, written by Cat Goscovitch is the (true) story of a young woman coerced into ‘internet trolling’ by Russian agencies in 2016, manipulating voters to vote leave in the EU referendum. It’s an intricate and unusual story, told through the monologue of Masha (played by Rachel Redford) as she explains the full journey from being a student with ideals of becoming a teacher, to entering the ‘war room’ of trolls where she befriends influencers to spread lies and misinformation.
Redford embraces us in one of the first encounters of live theatre since pandemic restrictions. The 60-minute monologue is exciting, witty, surprising, and somewhat dark. There is an intimate feeling of secrecy as Redford creates a dangerous atmosphere and has us wrapped in questions as Goscovitch’s story is unpredictable and tense. Redford’s commitment to the storytelling shines through, as she battles a runny cold but doesn’t let this interfere with the incredible pace and dexterity of the story whilst layering on a consistent Russian accent with all its unfamiliar nuances. This is down to the brilliant accent coaching of Katherine Heath.
Director Nicholas Kent creates a very clear platform for the story to surface. The energy of movement within the space is exactly what is needed to keep us on our toes for the best part of an hour. Redford relives conversations with mysterious Russian agents, tells of her living situation with her mother, and introduces us to her naïve friends. All of which, Kent allows space and imagination through the flowing story from Redford.
Liz Da Costa’s design creates the ideal atmosphere for the danger of the story. The simple black features of a computer, chair and handbag; refined by the bright landing strip lights of the office, encourages a strangely warm accessibility, inviting us into the shadows of secrecy.
The story has very similar themes to Rajiv Joseph’s Describe The Night ‘a post-truth play’ that had critical acclaim at the Hampstead Theatre in 2018; questioning why we believe the truth. Similarly, A Russian Doll challenges the integrity of truth and our all-consuming tendencies to believe almost anything: “Truth used to be important to me… now I realise, truth, lies, what does it matter?”
A Russian Doll is greatly poignant and relevant in a day and age of misreporting and social media exacerbating the reach of transparent truth. Redford’s performance is a real journey that will have you thinking about the validity of reality for days to come
A Russian Doll is at The Barn Theatre until 12th June 2021