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Crime and Punishment
By Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Adapted and Directed by Victor Sobchak
Venue: Theatre Collection: Camden, London
Director: Victor Sobchak
Producer: Theatre Collection?
Cast includes: Shaban Arifi, Lesley Lightfoot, Lucia Edward, Marco Nanetti, Joan Plunkett, David O’Kelly, Charlotte Nash, Natalie Hillier, Smith Lowe
Dates: 24 February to 16 March 2012?
Review by Isabelle Coy-Dibley?
This ambitious adaptation exquisitely re-captures the essence of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel. The Lord Stanley pub, home to Theatre Collection’s plays, once again produces an intense and dramatic performance. This complex story has been neatly adapted into a short play, with each plot explored to the best of their ability. However, if you have yet to read the novel, some of the significant themes and story arcs may be lost upon you.This was an impressive task to undertake when the depth of Dostoyevsky’s novel is difficult to fully relay. The studio was tightly packed with audience members, giving the impression of a jury about to consider a man’s fate. The stage simplistically comprises of two settings that with the use of efficient lighting enable one to imagine different locations. A floor-bed and chair signify Raskolnikov’s (Shaban Arifi) room while the other consists of a table adorned with a dark cloth, chairs and a shelf of miscellaneous objects. The main plot of this intricate story is set within Saint Petersburg, Russia, and traces Raskolnikov’s murder of Alyona (Joan Plunkett) the pawn broker. The character gradually deteriorates with the guilt of his crime, his mind feverish with delirium as the landlady’s servant, Nastya (Natalie Hillier) attempts to look after him. The sub-plots of the other characters intersperse with his downfall. Sonya (Lucia Edward), a daughter of a drunk, is forced to sell herself in order to look after her stepmother and siblings. Though a prostitute due to her poverty, she acts as a moral character upholding Christian values. Her story intermingles with Raskolnikov’s, as he knew her father. He pays, with his only money, for her father’s funeral and later confesses his crime to her, hoping that she will come with him to Siberia.
The story becomes deeper when Raskolnikov’s Mother (Lesley Lightfoot) and sister, Dunya (Charlotte Nash) visit to ask his permission to marry Dunya off to Luzhin in order to save the family from poverty. However, upon arriving, Raskolnikov’s sister and friend, Razumikhin (Smith Lowe) become acquainted only to fall in love and arrange to marry instead. Nonetheless, the past haunts them all, as Dunya’s former employee, Svidrigailov (Marco Nanetti) hunts her down after his wife’s death – insinuated to be from his own hands – only to blackmail her with the information of her brother’s crime and attempt to rape her.The story draws to an end with Raskolnikov’s confession after many pleads from Sonya, as well as the threatening talk with investigator Porfiry (David O’Kelly) who figures out his crime, yet lacks the evidence to convict him.The intensity of such mixed emotions is authentically portrayed by Shaban Arifi and Lucia Edward’s performances. The juxtaposition of these characters’ crimes (both murderers in different ways, one of her own soul and the other a murderer of others) highlights the desperation of humanity when survival is the only motivator. Edward powerfully conveys Sonya’s distressing urgency to know the reason for Raskolnikov’s crime, intermingling love and repulsion as she retreats only to embrace him again. She shows the depth of her acting with the passion she produces within her character. As tears streak her cheeks she follows Raskolnikov to face his verdict. Equally, Arifi delves into the tormented psyche of his Raskolnikov, depicting Dostoyevsky’s concept of punishment through the suffering of the conscious mind rather than by society’s laws. His soliloquies reveal the unravelling of a fragmented psyche plagued with notions of God and power. The physical and psychological signs of a guilty conscience are effectively portrayed through Arifi’s twitchy, erratic movements and frantic speeches. As an intellect, Raskolnikov theorises upon crime and the difference between the crime of the average man and the extraordinary man. He suggests that the extraordinary man is justified in committing a crime, or at least has the right to do so, if it so aids his progress. His example follows that if Newton needed to kill ten people who stood in his way, wouldn’t it be better to kill those specific ten to complete his revolution than to be prevented? As he argues his philosophical cause with the investigator, an astute and pensive man played convincingly by David O’Kelly, the contradictions and holes in his theory become apparent. He can no longer justify his crime through his theories. While he desired to escape from being a lowly insect in the web of life, he comes to comprehend his insignificance within his crime and how he was never an extraordinary man.
Alfred Schnittke’s accompanying musical score artfully emphasises the tension on stage with crescendos of orchestral melodies. The inclusion of this music, which punctuates the performance at specific intervals, effectively intensifies each scene to highlight the dramatic undercurrent that runs throughout the play. Crime and Punishment offers beautiful moments of minute detail, such as Raskolnikov’s delicate kiss of his mother’s hand as he says goodbye, and his poignant speech addressing the audience. The play illustrates the self-inflicted punishment of a guilty mind, leaving you with a didactic message of how no-one has the right to another’s humanity, yet everyone should have the right to their own.
Crime & Punishment
Published Friday 2 March 2012 at 10:37 by Honour Bayes
Victor Sobchak’s tidy production of Crime & Punishment is a mixed bag of powerful expressionism and stilted interactions. Dostoyevsky’s literary epic is rich material from which to pick, and Sobchak, after skinning it down to its skeleton, has managed to retain some of the original’s blood and guts. However, too often the slender shoulders of this cast buckle under the pressure of such meaty ideas.
A scene from Crime and Punishment at the Lord Stanley Pub, London
A scene from Crime and Punishment at the Lord Stanley Pub, London
Sobchak’s bold visual flare speaks volumes of the psychological disquiet of Dostoyevsky’s (anti) hero Raskolnikov, expressing his madness in ghostly sequences and emerald and sapphire lighting states. Further enhancing this unsettling atmosphere is the discordant music of Russian composer Alfred Schnittke which underscores the action.
But while Sobchak succeeds in creating stage tableaux
that even Robert Wilson would enjoy, he falls down in the more natural elements
of this piece. With the exception of Shaban Arifi, Lucia Edward and Natalie
Hillier, the presentational cast never feel comfortable in their newly acquired
Russian skins. Arifi is compelling at points but flips between madness and
sanity contrarily. Edward and Hillier breathe warmth into Sonya and Nastya but,
still, the surface of Dostoyevsky’s ruby red characters feels only just
Theatre Collection present Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
on Mar 16, 2012
and directed by Victor Sobchak
Crime and Punishment was always going to be an ambitious undertaking, especially with limited stage space and the necessary shortening of the literary epic for the stage. However there is a great deal to like about this production. The story itself has always fascinated me, offering psychological insight into the nature of morality, and the many forms of punishment that exist, reaching far beyond simple incarceration. Seeing the play in 2012 also makes me question whether criminals today may be so plagued by guilt and unable to enjoy ill-gotten gains. We follow Raskolnikov (played with impressive intensity by Shaban Arifi) an anti hero and our central character. Pressured by the poverty surrounding him, he feels forced to kill and rob a woman who by all accounts is morally bankrupt. In the course of this crime he is interrupted by her sister, whom he also kills. The punishment he brings on himself for these heinous acts – despite intermittently justifying them to himself and, at times, others – is enthralling to witness. With money the motivating factor, both for himself and his mother and sister, it is symbolic that he finds himself unable to use the money at all, becoming a miserable and tortured shadow of himself.
With these issues as the subject, set in Nineteenth Century St Petersburg, the portrayal was always going to be bleak, and while at times the intensive, tortured performances were hard to watch, they felt true to the novel. The use of space, lighting and music was particularly impressive and I really did feel swept away – albeit bleakly – in the performance. This won’t be a play for everyone and I wonder if people who haven’t read the novel would get as much from it as I did, but overall I would highly commend such an ambitious and largely successful undertaking.
By Meredith Ettridge
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.Dostoevsky’s more famous novel was published in installments in 1866. It is an uncomfortable and exhilarating stream of consciousness: the psychological account of a crime committed by the dishevelled and gibbering Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov amid the filth and squalor of St Petersburg’s streets. 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.