Review: A Russian Doll at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Writer: Cat Goscovitch

Director: Nicholas Kent

The Barn Theatre’s production of A Russian Doll is a harrowing insight and reflection on the Russian troll farms that operated in the EU referendum while it also explores the impact it had on those who were working for those farms and brings to question whether we’re past the point of no return when it comes to democracy, rather than data deciding the winner of a vote.

Rachel Redford is Marsha, an intelligent student with a love of literature, in particular Wuthering Heights. Marsha is lured into a role that includes creating various online profiles, each with a specific reason to manipulate and plant a seed, from getting an influencer to believe in propaganda to try to encourage others not to vote. Redford portrays Marsha, not as an evil villain, instead just a person like you and me. It keeps the piece firmly rooted in reality.

Redford expertly draws you in with her storytelling as Marsha recounts just how she was able to play a part in manipulating a conversation, the concern she has over the future of democracy but also why despite this, decides to put her morals aside to take part.

It’s eerily like a documentary how the events of exploiting our love for technology and sharing everything which makes it all the more provocative. From the ‘war room’ to Martha’s desk, under Nicholas Kent’s direction, the plot keeps moving with pace which all brings together this vast and complex subject in a way that is easy to understand in just over an hour.

At points, it is disturbing to remember that at the heart of this play is the truth, a factual story that took place. It highlights not just what happened in the EU referendum, but how the world is slowly changing to blur the lines between fact and fiction and to a world where we question whether the truth even matters.

A Russian Doll is a fascinating, engrossing peice that’s brought to life in a way that’s going to provoke a discussion about who really is to blame when it comes to allowing these farms to operate… the Russian State, our own government, the Internet, or is it us? As the closing moments of the play starkly point out… ‘you criticise me, but you let it happen’. At the same time it may make you think twice before sharing that update and see unverified news and articles as fact.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*This production was watched via stream and was gifted in exchange for a review. This value for money rating is based on ticket prices for this production between £11.50 and £36.50. For more information on the value for money rating, click here.

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