Russian Dolls Review: Full Of Themselves And Of Emotion

Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre ★★★★★

Sophia Shluger
By Sophia Shluger Last edited 31 months ago
Russian Dolls Review: Full Of Themselves And Of Emotion Russian Dolls at King's Head Theatre 5
Stephanie Fayerman and Mollie Lambert © Andreas Grieger

The long-running joke is that no one likes Matryoshki, aka wooden Russian dolls, because they are ‘full of themselves’. Kate Lock’s award-winning play of the same name is less about egotism and more about the multiple layers one must remove to arrive at your inner self. Set in modern day London, it chronicles the unlikely relationship and harsh ritual of daily survival between two women set apart by generations and very different, albeit trying, circumstances.

Weaving seamlessly between monologues and dialogues, the narrative is downright provocative and replete with themes of human vulnerability, longing and compassion for two women who find and ultimately build a great and unsustainable dependence on each other.

The set, with its household props, is beautiful in its simplicity allowing the acting, which is extremely powerful, to be centre of the production. The young and desperate Camelia (played by the immensely talented Mollie Lambert) contrasts nicely next to the older, wiser and mesmerising Hilda (played by Stephanie Fayerman) who embodies her very physical shortcoming of blindness with both grace and authenticity.

They are difficult yet extremely likeable characters and despite the repeatedly heavy subject matter at hand that spans rape, abandonment and adoption (to name a few), they are pure pleasure to watch, leaving you feeling not only that you know them personally but that you may have a bit of both of them in yourself.

This story about life in rawest form is full on and will tug at your heart strings, making you experience a wide variety of emotions. It makes emerging back into the lighthearted ambiance of the King’s Head pub feel damningly frivolous. If the story’s moral — that one cannot easily extricate oneself from the reality one continues to unknowingly create — wasn’t so heartwrenching, this play would be a delight to watch over and over.

Russian Dolls runs at King's Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street N1 1QN until 23 April. Tickets are between £10-£25. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 16 April 2016