EUGENIA Dmitrieva is in her dressing room at QPAC, being made up for her role as the eldest sibling in Anton Chekhov's The Three Sisters.
"Here we are allowed to go naked on stage, but we cannot smoke a cigarette," she puzzles.
The show opened last night as part of The Brisbane Festival.
Since the 14 Russian actors and another 20 plus technicians arrived last weekend, they have been coming to terms with the inclement Brisbane weather (it is warm now in Moscow), and cultural differences like having to smoke herbal instead of tobacco cigarettes on stage, under Queensland's anti-smoking laws.
Set in 1900 in the Russian provinces, smoking helps to define the way the characters in The Three Sisters crave a different kind of life. The production has already been acclaimed in France, Britain, Colombia, New Zealand and Finland.
It is directed by one of the world's top theatre directors, Declan Donnellan, who speaks only a little Russian, enabling him to focus on the acting, rather than simply the text.
"He gives us a fresh look on Chekhov," says Dmitrieva, 35. "Declan has made them more real, stronger."
The Russians are so keen on Donnellan's interpretation of Russian classics that the company is having its own theatre built in Moscow with him as artistic director.
The Three Sisters is on until Sunday at the Playhouse, QPAC.