Ever feel like you've been cheated? John Lydon's famous phrase springs
to mind in Selma Dimitrijevic's production of her new version of
Gogol's nineteenth century comedy, penned here with Mikhail Durnenkov.
This isn't just because of the Sex Pistols t-shirt sported by one of
the key players in the elaborate sting that follows from an unholy
alliance between con-men. It is the way too that Dimitrijevic and her
all-female ensemble play with artifice and gender in a way that itself
is a stylistic gamble. Yet, as each character enters the locker-room to
play macho games, it pays dividends even as the gang hustle their
victim into suspending their own disbelief.
Initially nothing is hidden in this co-production between Greyscale and
Dundee Rep Ensemble in association with Northern Stage and Stellar
Quines. Once the sextet of players have put on charity shop suits and
waistcoats, they pick up instruments to become a junkyard dance-band
before a playground whistle calls them to attention. Everything from
thereon in is an elaborate game, as each adopt the exaggerated
mannerisms of lads on a stag do, attempting to out-drink, out-swagger
and out-smart one another with increasingly ridiculous effect.
Having women put on the fragile mask of machismo in such a way not only
heightens the comedy of what might well be a template for every
big-screen depiction of hustlers ever made. With a cast of six
featuring Amanda Hadingue as newcomer Iharev, Hannah McPake as leader
of the crew Uteshitelny and the Rep Ensemble's Emily Winter as the wily
Shvohnev, it also makes for a piece of gender-bending subversion that
double-bluffs its way onto the stage with barely a trick missed.
The Herald, October 28th 2014