More theatrical exploration than theatre, Komunka is an improvised piece of theatre that focuses around the lives of several Russians living in a komunka, or communal apartment. Working from scenarios developed in the rehearsal room, the actors play out a series of scenes that deal with themes of abuse, homophobia, and despair. As an acting exercise, it’s fascinating and unique. As a piece of theatre, it fails more often than it succeeds.
The opportunity for spectacular drama is certainly present as the eponymous apartment is shared by a vast array of Russians, from an abusive husband and wife to a pair of male roommates who are more than just friends. Although there are suggestions of dramatic possibilities - a gay character is beaten, there is the threat of a new tenant arriving to shake things up – the story never truly moves forward in any satisfying way. Without a writer (or writers) to shape things, we have no central character or story to hold onto. The play flounders for much of the night, never quite managing to fulfill its promise of being something great.
Given that this is an improvised piece, it is entirely possible that a different performance will produce a completely different result. For this reason, the theatrically adventurous may still wish to see Komunka for themselves. There is still the occasional smart scene or beautiful moment and this remains a piece that has the potential to give us all an intriguing glimpse into another world.