Crime and Punishment is daunting. Its author’s name is difficult to pronounce and spell. It is long and dark and it was written long ago in darker times and darker lands. But take the leap and it is the most riveting, gripping Page Turner you will encounter. I stayed in bed for a whole day gobbling it up until I had finished. In short, it is excellent.
I was dying to see how Theatre Collection at the Lord Stanley was going to rework this twisted legend.
Artistic director and co-founder of the company, Viktor Sobchak has shied away from gimmicks and over-complexity. The stage is a black, blank canvas. The tiny space divided into two: Raskolnikov’s hovel and the outside world, where everything else takes place. Scenes shift smoothly, rather than change, and this works wonderfully.
The casting was brilliant, with every actor looking their part tremendously and each worthy of individual praise. Particularly impressive was David O’Kelly as Porfiry, the investigator. Lucia Edwards personified Sonya, the pious prostitute whom Raskolnikov comes to the aid of after the death of her alcoholic father, excellently in stature, voice and demeanour.
Producer, director and co-founder of the company Shaban Arifi was very different to my crustier and more decrepit mental image of the murderer Rodion Raskolnikov, but makes a great lead role. Edwards and Arifi together create a beautiful and touching chemistry in their portrayal of the burdened couple.
The lighting mimics what would have been the meager candlelight and the protagonist’s own inner madness. Sobchak has chosen well to use Alfred Schnittke’s music – eerie and evocative, just like score Hitchcock’s Psycho.
There were times when I worried that anyone who had not read the book may not have followed along. The director’s commendable choice to make things simple also made me wonder whether enough the main character’s neurosis was conveyed as well as the engrossing twists and turns of the tale.
Then again Dostoevsky wrote a book that is so subjective and detailed that you could make an ever-lasting film and still not cover all the meanderings – in mind and body – of the tortured Raskolnikov. Well done to the director and cast for making something sincere, simple and enjoyable that doesn’t try and be too big for its boots.
Theatre Collection is also staging a collection of Anton Chekhov’s dark tales from now until the 25th March. Cruel Chekhov will be reviewed here in just over a week.