A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian Review

Hull Truck Theatre – until 14 October.  Reviewed by Catherine McWilliams


This excellent production at Hull Truck theatre fairly zipped along, taking our emotions from highs to lows, with a good sprinkling of humour.

On the surface this is a story of Nikolai, an elderly Ukrainian widower living in the East of England who marries a much younger Ukrainian woman, much to the displeasure of his daughters. It is much more though, taking us through the history of the family and Ukraine itself and making us consider those who seek a new life through immigration. Family secrets are divulged as the daughters argue with their father.

The play has been skilfully adapted by Tanika Gupta from the novel by Marina Lewycka. She has introduced the mother Ludmilla as the narrator, who provides a calm voice in the midst of madness and chaos.

The cast play a variety of roles as they tell the story and flashback to family history. We had joyful Ukrainian dancing and singing at one moment and were faced with the horror of a Nazi labour camp later. All the cast played their many roles well. Ruth Lass played Nadezdha superbly as the younger daughter who really struggled with her relationship with her father.

Geoffrey Beevers was particularly outstanding as Nikolai, who could not quite understand why his daughters might be distressed by his actions. The twinkle was there to see at times, together with his distress when things went awry. However this “poet engineer” never gave up hope.

The set mainly consisted of suitcases and a large tree, but never seemed to be just suitcases but cleverly added to the story telling.

I thoroughly enjoyed this production but was left with the question what would I do to ensure a future for my child? And as for the tractors – well go and see the play and find out for yourself!