A 19th-century Italian farce performed in Russian with Latvian surtitles? I’m in

My colleague was very much ‘voting with his eyelids’

Share

If you happen to have a column in The Independent Magazine, you have a responsibility (and I’m paraphrasing my editor here) to find interesting and diverse things to write about. And that’s why I found myself sat in a theatre in Riga on Wednesday night watching the first half of a 19th-century Italian farce performed in Russian with Latvian surtitles. I just don’t think I’d have been there otherwise.

I’m back from Eastern Europe now – I’ve already had maybe four Prets and listened to three Radio 5 Live phone-ins. But until Thursday I was very much ‘in Riga’. I’d gone there to write with a colleague, and very productive and chilly it was, too. On the last night, as a treat, we decided to do an activity. He was keen to watch Dallas Buyers Club at the Forum. I wanted to watch Chelovek I Djentljmen at the Rigas Krievu Theatre. It ended with a scuffle in the snow and me holding his throat with my mitten and shouting the word culture. We were off to the theatre.

In Eastern Europe, going to the theatre is a big event. People really dress up for it. There’s tons of fur and lipstick, and as you go in people take your coat and hang it up, and the ladies adjust themselves in full-length mirrors before taking their seats. My colleague and I wore snowboots and jumpers and our hair was lank with days of writing. We collected several snooty looks as we shuffled along row YY and sat our arses down in seats 21 and 22. Playtime.

I’ve had no training as a reviewer, and I don’t really see myself as particularly qualified to review theatre, but here goes. As far as I could tell – through the fog of Russian – the star of the show was a man who looked like a fat, Slavonic Terry Venables. He seemed to have found himself in a hotel reception with lots of doors, and another man who had a flirtatious, Mimi Labonq-ish maid got Venables to maybe write a play for him. I don’t think Venables wanted to do it, but his hands were tied. Venables’ wife(?) was pregnant and his son was a dork and his mum was deaf and between them they made a proper Horlicks of putting this play together. An Italian general with a huge nervous tic saw a rehearsal and possibly took offence, and then the doors came into their own as the company ran in and out of them for three or four minutes. The fella next to me loved it.

My colleague was very much ‘voting with his eyelids’. Tired from a hard afternoon at his laptop, this incessant gobbledegook wasn’t giving him anywhere near the amount of stimulation he needed. He succumbed. He slept quietly, like a dormouse, occasionally smiling when the audience laughed at some of Venables’ schtick. Once or twice he would begin to snore and the elegant madame to his right would stuff a beautifully varnished nail into his ribs and he would lick his lips and quieten down. Mostly he was out, though. Dreaming. Lucky sod. I hunkered down and got through to half-time.

Say what you like about Latvian interpretations of dated Italian farces, Rigans know how to throw an interval. The drink of choice is champagne, and the beautifully-turned-out beasts queued patiently for a flute, and a snack to boot. There was an abundance of little pies and pots of Russian salad and gherkins. The locals chowed these back and warbled their anticipation of the second half. My colleague and I necked bubbly, weighed up our options and collected our coats.

Out on the street, my colleague stamped his feet in the snow and fired up his data roaming. He was sleepy, cold and confused. He showed me his screen. If we hurried we could catch the last hour of Dallas Buyers Club at the Forum. It felt like the right call. I could always Wikipedia the play when I got home. We heaved on our gloves and hats and trudged west.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?