Indeed, entering the Verve restaurant below the Metro Arts foyer, I felt I had travelled back in time, to the kind of European café/bar where revolutions begin. The dingy, 'damp cellar' atmosphere and arty vibe set the perfect mood for Motherland.
The intimacy of the Sue Benner Theatre brought the actors so close you could see their every expression.
Nelle is the Brisbane wife of deposed Russian Prime Minister Kerensky. She forms a tender friendship with poet Nina, who is exiled in Paris. The third character, museum curator Alyona, who uncovers the stories of Nell and Nina and whose dreams of finding paradise in Queensland are crushed by the Fitzgerald inquiry and bankruptcy, narrates the story.
Motherland is an epic narrative of camaraderie, displacement, and identity, crafted on the foundations of love, ambition, politics and the casualties that often accompany these themes.
Under the direction of Caroline Dunphy, the well-chosen cast brings the characters to life with extraordinary passion and ability. The decision to make some actors play multiple roles encourages the audience to stretch their imagination.
As I left the theatre, I overheard a comment that the play was a bit too fast-paced and could have used an introduction to explain the opening scene. But this didn't detract from the play's overall brilliance, and the general sentiment was one of awe.
As I understood, the opening scene was a protest in Moscow during the Revolutions of 1989 (correlating with the Queensland Fitzgerald inquiry of 1987-1989), which overthrew the communist states in various Central and Eastern European countries).
High-energy, entertaining and emotionally stirring, it's no surprise this production has been short-listed for this year's Patrick White Playwrights' Award.