Crime and Punishment, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, review
The Glaswegian company’s brilliant new Crime and Punishment compresses Dostoyevsky’s magnum opus into a bleak, brooding, compelling evening of theatre.
By Mark Brown
In 1980, the Citizens Theatre staged an acclaimed adaptation of Marcel Proust’s great novel Remembrance of Things Past. Translated and adapted by Robert David MacDonald and directed by Philip Prowse, it was wittily titled A Waste of Time.
One can hear the echoes of such outrageous ambition in the Glasgow playhouse’s latest production, a brilliantly accomplished staging of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s magnum opus Crime and Punishment, which is co-produced with the Liverpool Playhouse and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Adapted by Chris Hannan and directed by the Citizens’ artistic director Dominic Hill, the piece compresses the immense fiction into a bleak, brooding and compelling two-and-three-quarter hours.
In designer Colin Richmond’s superb, Brechtian design, the performance space is stripped back to its black walls, and the necessary props, furniture and instruments are arranged around the naked stage. The 10-strong cast function both as a motley assembly of city dwellers and an implacable choir. St Petersburg, for all its splendour, is barren and chaotic.
Thus we see the great city from the perspective of the novel’s turbulent, morally anguished protagonist, former law student Rodya Raskolnikov. Disillusioned and impoverished, his St Petersburg is peopled by cynical, violent police officers, heartless pawnbrokers, hardened drunkards and, of course, Sonya, who is martyred in prostitution and clinging to Christ.
Doors are rolled around on wheels, premonitory sounds emanate from a desolate piano, the apparent 19th-century period setting is punctured neatly by little invasions of modernity. In such ways is the atmosphere of the novel evoked.
The feverish coherence of the play is testament to both the tight elegance of Hannan’s adaptation and the theatrical vision of Hill; a vision which manifests itself particularly in the casting.
A generally excellent ensemble boasts George Costigan, who is superb in a variety of roles, and deliciously louche as the magistrate Porfiry Petrovich. Cate Hamer impresses similarly as, among others, the suddenly widowed Katerina Marmeladov.
However, the narrative hinges on the character of Raskolnikov himself, and Northern Irish actor Adam Best renders him with an extraordinary combination of muscular rage, sincere compassion and psychological crisis. As his murderous student falls, his meltdown is as powerful and palpable as that of any Hamlet or Macbeth.
At Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until September 28. Then transferring to Liverpool Playhouse, October 1-19; and Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, October 22 to November 9. For further information, visit: citz.co.uk
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on September 9, 2013:
© Mark Brown