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Liverpool Everyman Theatre
May 12 – May 15 2010 (Then Touring until May 23)

Author: Bryony Lavery
Directors: Mark Espiner and Dan Jones
Design: Jon Bauser
Producer: Fuel Theatre
Cast Includes: Ian Ashpitel, Keir Charles, Tom Espiner, Jonah Russell,
Laurence Mitchell

Running Time: 1 hr 25 mins

Kursk - Wed 12 May to Sat 15 May 2010

Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website

Exhilarating, claustrophobic, compelling, disturbing, thought-provoking, humorous and intensely sad, Kurskis all of these things and a whole lot more.

The year 2000 and a British hunter-killer submarine patrols the Arctic. The crew drill, sleep, eat, long for words of comfort and support from home, and silently shadow their target. Based on the disaster that felled the Russian submarine in August 2000, this is a play that simply insists on not only emerging the depths of the frozen seas but also the audience in 115 minutes of captivating brilliance.


What is most fascinating is that the audience is invited to become voyeurs onboard the British sub, as they stand around the “set” – an intricately cramped and detailed version of the sub – forcing the cast to move in and amongst them.

Hansjorg Schmidt’s lighting and Dan Jones’ Sound add further atmosphere to what is at once truly disturbing, unnatural and frightening and so turn the whole ambience into something quite unforgettable.

Then there are the performances themselves, as the cast reel out yard after yard of technical spiel which, in a Tom Clancy novel, for instance, might slow the pace dramatically, here adds to the sense of realism and highlights the dependency the men have on each other and, also, on the urgency and intricacy with which each manoeuvre must be carried out.

Keir Charles playing “Casanova” Ken Webster, is the confident, cocky womaniser who may well have found the love of his life in Maria and is feeling their parting much more than he has in times past with countless other women. Charles is quite excellent – as are all the cast – in swapping from highly trained discipline to ordinary bloke having a laugh with the lads, yet never stumbles into parody or stereotyping.

Ian Ashpitel, as Coxswain Donny Black, is the driving force of the crew … the father figure to whom they turn for guidance and advice and in this Ashpitel excels without ever overstepping the mark and becoming a cliché.

Jack- the-Lad, Donnie Mac, played by Jonah Russell, is the radio engineer and deliverer of “good news” from home, yet is played with a great deal of sensitivity and, at times, aloofness that makes the character seem so emotionally three dimensional. A characteristic which is also clearly detectable in Tom Espiner’s “New Dad” Mike, who is naïve, in love, desperately missing his new-born daughter and yet so utterly convincing that by the play’s end the audience have been well and truly put through the emotional wringer by all involved, but by Espiner especially.

This leaves Laurence Mitchell’s Commander, who is all British stiff-upper-lip-on-the-surface control, whereas beneath – as we see through private snapshots – is more a quivering and indecisive individual, bent on doing “what’s right” for the boat but having little emotional savvy or tactical experience to recognise what that is or how to go about it.

Here is the essence of the play; the “what if we’d done it differently” scenario that is a subtle reminder to us all that once a decision is made for either good or ill, the chance to go back and change the consequences is often denied each of us, and Mitchell exudes the charisma and understatement such a role truly needs in order for this scenario to work as well as it does here.

115 minutes fly past in the blink of a nuclear-charged eye, and in not resorting to a ghoulish eye-witness account of what the Russian submariners must have gone through during their final hours, but instead concentrating on how others involved must have felt and still feel, Kursk is an audio, visual, sensual and theatrical triumph from first to last.

Chris High

See a Trailer and commentary for Kurskat:        



Everyman Liverpool Playhouse official website



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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