There is something rather magical about independent theatre I think, and the Theatre Collection above Camden’s Lord Stanley is a prime example of that something magical. Situated above a great north London pub (pubs I am very particular about and as such this is high praise) the Theatre Collection is the creative collaboration of Victor Sobchak and Shaban Arifi with a great deal to offer us Londoners.
We arrived unaware that the Lord Stanley actually had this arty little nugget tucked away upstairs, and finally, come show time we were heralded upstairs by Shaban himself into a black walled room, with cushion filled seats. First impressions were pretty good, and I am delighted to say that I was not disappointed with what came next.
The adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” was very well instrumented, in a professional, authentic and stylish manner. The theatre is small, no way getting round that, and there’s no back stage just two doors! However, the play setting was excellently directed, helping not only create a unique and intimate atmosphere, but also an engaging performance.
For anyone who isn’t familair with the storyline, ‘The Idiot’ follows the return of the young Prince Lev Nikolaevich Myshkin back to St Petersburg after his stay in a Swiss sanatorium. The honest and naive nature of the young man, quickly transpires to be his main issue in life; although, shockingly he isn’t that bright either which is also a bit of a problem. The plot follows Myshkin’s path through the corrupt social circle of the city; obsessed with money and sex, the characters entwine in numerous love triangles, with the trusting Myshkin falling for not one, but two very different women. This is truly Dostoyevsky as his best. ‘The Idiot’ is a deeply humorous satirical work that not only was very forward thinking in subject for the time, but also brilliantly mocks human nature. As an excellent psychological observer, in true Dostoyevsky style, ‘The Idiot’ explores the nature of good and bad in people.
The actors portrayed the characters brilliantly, with stellar performances from several of the well picked cast. In particular I enjoyed Rogozin played by Oliver Callaway, Lebedev by Mauricio Brandes and Gareth Davies’s General Yepanchin. With such a small space, there’s no where to hide and I was pleased to see the cast working so well with the space given, in such close proximity to the audience.
It is evident at every moment, the passion and true dedication that has gone into the Theatre Collection. This not only excites me but also makes me want to come back and see more. Most pleasantly for an independent theatre the range of plays that are being offered here is great, with a few well chosen classics. Next on the list in April is Gogol’s ‘The Government Inspector’ which I will definitely be returning for, as well as Durrenmatt’s ‘The Visit’ later this year. In my eyes this is theatre at its best, not pretentious, not ‘twatish’ but quite simply what theatre should be about- art.