Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 novel Anna Karenina has been adapted into countless forms over the decades since it was first published. A tale of betrayal, faith and family in Imperial Russian society, it has been portrayed in theatre, opera, film, ballet and now an hour-long comedy musical by The Pushkinettes.
While not strictly the most accurate depiction of the show, Anna KareniNaNaNa is still heartfelt, emotional and tells the story surprisingly well. You don’t need to be at all familiar with the original novel to be able to follow along and have a fantastic time watching this show. Anna KareniNaNaNa is clearly born of an evident love for the source material and it is a genuine joy to watch performers who are enjoying themselves so much throughout the show.
All three of The Pushkinettes – Julia Masli, Tatiana Collet-Apraxine and Julie Nesher – are incredibly talented performers. The story is largely told through music and movement. Along with enviable musical, dancing and clowning skills, the three interact with each other in such a way that it’s easy to see the imagined settings around them, even though the stage doesn’t change throughout the show.
Two out of three of the performers jump between roles throughout the show. Their ability to convey each character through their mannerisms, outside of the costume changes, is genuinely brilliant. Julie Nesher does one of the most fantastic performances as a horse that a human being has ever done.
It comes as no surprise that movement is so cleverly used in this show, especially if you’re familiar with Julia Masli’s other show at this year’s Vault Festival, Legs. It accentuates both the serious and hilarious parts of the show and manages to marry the two seemingly conflicting approaches in a way that works far better than it has any right to. The scene when Anna Karenina is separated from her beloved son is somehow simultaneously heartbreaking and hysterically funny.
There is also a visual representation of Anna’s sexual awakening comprised of a woman fisting her way out of a bin bag to a serenade of maracas. It is a disturbingly accurate portrayal of emerging womanhood.
Every element of this show – the story, the music, the comedy, the clowning – comes together wonderfully. It’s easy to jump into the story at the beck and call of three incredibly talented performers who are evidently having a great time.
The Pushkinettes are performing Anna KareniNaNaNa at Vault Festival on February 22nd.