Pros: Simplistically hilarious, recognisable character and beautifully designed.
Cons: The satire belongs most prominently to the Soviet states.
The first thing you notice about The Harvest is the bright starkness of Madeleine Girling’s design. White walls with apples dangling playfully above it. Four white ladders lead up to the apples orderly and yet invitingly. It feels simple and yet somehow full. You are immediately transported to summer, automatically feeling warm and relaxed. I sit back and wind my brain down, ready to absorb but not necessarily equipped to force thought. Pavel Pryazhko’s (translated by Sasha Dugdale) narrative is fast-paced and jovial. We bounce along with it as even the anarchy descends with a cheerful spring. Ex-RSC boss Michael Boyd has executed the cleverest and most enjoyable kind of entertainment in his direction. The kind where we just get carried along, laughing as we go, without realising the impact until long after we’ve left the auditorium and are busying ourselves with a pint of cider inspired by all the apples.
Four teenagers set about picking apples, taking great care in doing so. They bound up and down ladders and nestle individual green orbs into crates. They don’t speak to each other, so content in the focus of their task. But, within the silence of their work so much is clear; status, status shifts, fancying, flirting, genders. The one thing that is unclear is why; why these four youths have found themselves spending a day of hard graft in the orchard.
The girls Lyuba (Lyndsey Campbell) and Ira (Beth Park), prim and preen themselves, are proving their worth to their male counterparts through a mixture of helpfulness and sensuality. Campbell plays the bimbo card, widening her eyes and welcoming the male assistant. She is innocent and giggly. Park exhibits far more sexuality and is stronger and generally cooler. The boys, Valerii (Dyfan Dwyfor) and Egor (Dafydd Llyr Thomas), go through the classic territory marking. From subtle leering to progressively showing the other who is boss. Valerii is dominant from the off, preaching his knowledge of apples and how to care for them pretentiously. Egor is more physical in his approach, allowing Valerii to carry on with himself long enough to dig himself a hole. Horns are eventually locked in a hilarious debacle Involving a broken crate and a mutual inability to hammer in nails to fix it. As a result, bleeding thumbs and profanities are abound.
The broken crate in question is one of many and is the catalyst that proves that there is corruption in the ranks. Corruption that starts at the top and filters its way down through society, affecting the little guys at the bottom. It only takes one bad apple to turn the rest into rot. The bad apple is usually without identity, but somewhere in a position of power. The narrative pivots on it; from farce to satire. The orchard is a post-change, dysfunctional society, where everything seems that little bit out of reach. Where everyone is working because they should, without knowing what the value of it is, who they are working for or really believing it. Everything seems like anarchic chaos. Where you have no control over anything around you, only yourself. So you exert the best you, without properly knowing what’s underneath it. Where all the little things knock each other down and build up into anxiety, sickness and rage.