‘Performances’ - a theatrical and musical triumph

Actor Allan Corduner, actress Masha Dakie and actor & director Adrian Dunbar.
Actor Allan Corduner, actress Masha Dakie and actor & director Adrian Dunbar.

The dramatic mastery of Brian Friel’s ‘Performances’ bursts into life with its energetic staging at the Great Hall, Magee.

A Millennium Forum production as part of the UK City of Culture programme, ‘Performances’ is directed by acclaimed Northern Ireland actor and director Adrian Dunbar and features the Brodsky Quartet.

‘Performances’ is the bitter-sweet story of a young woman’s quest to establish that love and romance were at the core of “Intimate Letters”, Czech composer Leos Janacek’s passionate final master work for string quartet.

Janacek is played superbly by Allan Corduner who has numerous stage roles to his credit at leading UK venues such as the Royal National Theatre, the Old Vic and Off-Broadway as well as film and radio.

The dead Janacek is under scrutiny from Ph.D. student Anezka Ungrova played by Masha Dakie, about the true nature of his relationship with the much younger, married mother-of-two, Kamila Stosslova.

When Ungrova’s persistent and increasingly fraught cross-examination of the composer reaches its crescendo, Friel lets the music do the talking in this dramatic examination of the connections between the musician’s life and his music.

The Brodsky Quartet prove adept in supporting roles with cellist Jacqueline Thomas, particularly impressive as ‘Ruth’, while viola player ‘John’, Derry’s own Paul Cassidy, appears to relish performing in front of a ‘home’ crowd.

Friel’s wry humour is regularly to the fore in ‘Performances’, with some gems of lines from Janacek as he refuses to give in to Ungrova’s relentless quest for answers about whether the obsessive romantic relationship during which hundreds of ‘intimate letters’ were exchanged, was the true inspiration for his final work.

Masha Dakie, who gives a stand-out performance as Anezka Ungrova, graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. She also attended the Lee Starsberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York, USA. As well as theatre and film roles, Dakic is also one of the leading voice-over artists in Serbia (Ice Age, Wreck It Ralph, Toy Story, Pokemon etc).

On Friday evening Adrian Dunbar was in the audience’s intimate seating arrangement in the Great Hall which just a few weeks previously was graced with the presence of the playwright himself, Brian Friel, for the conferring of an honorary degree on British actor Sir Ian McKellen.

‘Performances’ is receiving a rapturous response from Derry audiences warming to the feast of theatre unfolding during City of Culture year.

Since its formation in 1972, The Brodsky Quartet has performed over 3000 concerts on the major stages of the world and released more than 600 recordings. The Quartet, named after the great Russian violinist Adolf Brodsky, and currently resident in London, has performed at many of the UK’s major festivals and venues, and is regularly recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio. The Quartet also has a busy international performing schedule, and has toured extensively throughout Australasia, North and South America, Asia, South Africa and Europe.

‘Performances’ continues at the Great Hall, Magee this evening (Tuesday) February 19 nightly until Saturday, February 23 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the Millennium Forum Box Office on 02871 264455 or online at www.millenniumforum.co.uk

The Brodsky Quarter are also appearing at the Millennium Forum on Thursday, February 21, at 9pm. Tickets priced £15 are also now available. Bring your ticket for ‘Performances’ to the Forum’s Box Office to receive the offer of “Buy One Get One Free” for the Brodsky Quartet on February 21.

There is also more Brian Friel coming soon with ‘Translations’, directed by Adrian Dunbar, at the Millennium Forum from Wednesday, March 13 to Saturday, March 16.