[Theatre and Physical Theatre/Comedy ~ SA PREMIERE ~ NSW]
Drama Llama at Rhino Room, Tue 8 Mar.
The first thing that strikes you about Nanna-stasia is the enthusiasm of Eleanor Stankiewicz for her subject. Weekly visits to see her Lithuanian grandmother were a happy part of her childhood in Adelaide. They played cards, told stories, and watched the animated 1990’s film Anastasia.
In this warm hearted and tender tribute to her Nanna we learn that Nanna would always resist any prying into her life back in Lithuania prior to WW2. So we see the young 7-year-old Eleanor re-inventing her Nanna’s life story in her imagination, entwining it into her favourite film Anastasia– the songs, evil characters’, a love story, a hero and a happy ending all getting mish-mashed into the young child’s family history.
As many children do in their imaginative games Eleanor takes on all the characters. The NIDA graduate’s ability to transform and leap from one character to another with nothing more than a red scarf and an array of accents is impressive. Her exaggerated movements are gracefully and athletically executed, and her skill at mime also underscores the fantasy aspect of this invented history. Stankiewicz has graced the stage with the State Theatre Company and The Bell Shakespeare Company, and her acting skills are obvious in the confines of the Rhino Room.
Songs from the film Anastasia are interspersed throughout the first section of the play and are sung with all the passion and verve and unselfconsciousness of that 7-year-old child. Hearing songs such as Journey To The Past or Once Upon A December will ignite some nostalgia for many and it comes as a relief to learn that Stankiewicz can hit those big notes and really sing.
This could have been just a sentimental tribute but although heartfelt and at times almost cheesy Stankiewicz’s writing skill never lets it cross the line. As the story unfolds we learn snippets about the real version of events that lie behind her Nanna’s past, and it is then that we begin to appreciate why her Nanna may have preferred not to share it. Her life was harder and more similar to Anastasia than even young Eleanor could have imagined. There is a subtle undercurrent throughout that we could do more to help refugees, and the current turmoil in the Ukraine gives the play’s reflections of a war torn Europe an especially poignant relevance. You will come away smiling but also reflecting.
Eleanor Stankewicz: Nanna-stasia continues at Drama Llama at Rhino Room, at various times, until Sat 19 Mar.
Book at FringeTIX on 1300 621 255 or adelaidefringe.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.