Crime And Punishment
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Until September 28;
Transferring to Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
October 22 to November 9
Seen at Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh;
Various dates until November 16
Reviewed by Mark Brown
I have, I must confess, long harboured a prejudice against stage adaptations of prose fictions. There have been (and are still) too many uninspired, laboured presentations of novels which trade on the title’s fame while innumerable good, sometimes great plays continue to be neglected.
There are, however, exceptions to every rule. Scottish theatre had a recent, and brilliant, one in Andy Arnold’s production of Dermot Bolger’s adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses for the Tron Theatre. Now, from the not unexpected stable of Dominic Hill’s Citizens, comes another.
Chris Hannan’s superb stage version of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s immense novel Crime And Punishment, directed by Hill, is an affecting and resonating work of theatre. Brilliantly stripped back – in the style of Brecht’s selective realism – to its theatrical essentials, it is powerfully evocative of both the wretched underbelly of imperial St Petersburg and the scorpions which the city has bred in the mind of the student-turned-murderer Raskolnikov.
Northern Irish actor Adam Best brings forth the homicidal philosopher in the most pungent of terms. One can almost taste his fevered confusion and feel his despairing disillusionment as his rage does mortal battle with his undoubted humanism. Here, emerging from Dostoyevsky’s radical liberalism, comes the living embodiment of the anarchist contention that society gets the crime it deserves.
That society – the impoverished urban masses scrabbling beneath the crown and the cross of Czarism – is evoked by a fine ensemble which doubles as a lumpen chorus. From a venal, cynical judge, to a parasitic pawnbroker and a legion of hollow-eyed alcoholics, one senses Franz Kafka’s debt to Dostoyevsky at every turn on Hill’s bleak and misty stage.
Outstanding in every department – right down to the metatheatrical creation of sound effects and the subtle insertions of 21st-century design – this production (co-produced with Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh) marks another milestone in the illustrious history of the Citizens.
There’s another tale of social breakdown in Feral, Tortoise In A Nutshell theatre company’s award-winning multimedia piece about a little paper town on the slide. Using lights, miniature cameras, a large screen, a few microphones, a couple of computers and some paper and card, the young, Edinburgh-based group create a live animation which is absolutely stunning in its technical accomplishment.
With great skill and technique, they create before our eyes a charming little town – with its butcher, baker and, yes, “pre-Victorian lighting emporium” – before reducing it to a rancid dystopia of vomiting drunks, sexual deviants and apolitical, moronic rioters. How far one is willing to go with this, literally and metaphorically, monochrome social commentary depends very much on one’s politics.
It might not be Tortoise In A Nutshell’s intention, but I was struck by the similarities between their misanthropic despair and their nostalgia for an idealised urbanity of yesteryear and the Daily Mail’s “to hell in a handcart” vision of the 2011 English riots in particular and modern British society in general.
For tour dates for Feral, visit: ww.tortoiseinanutshell.com
These reviews were originally published in the Sunday Herald on September 15, 2013
© Mark Brown