Reviewed by Shea Hogarth
Adapted for the stage by British playwright Chris Hannan, this theatre rendition of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, is faithful to the spirit of the novel whilst branching out in unexpected and inventive directions. Director, Anthony Skuse, brings to life the inner monologues of Raskolnikov's turmoil and accurately depicts his jolted thrust into delirium. Fearlessly tackling the challenging subject matter that characterises the Russian classic, this adaptation hinges on the search for meaning within a chaotic world.
With his wiry frame, dishevelled hair, and restrained nervous energy, actor James Smithers as Raskolnikov is a triumphant bit of casting. A deep sense of Raskolnikov’s dichotomous nature arises unbidden as the actors hone in on inner moral struggles and the concept of loss. The play also gives prominence to strong female characters who, despite expected remarks from male characters, hold true to their convictions and wield evident tenacity. Heartbreaking performances by all the actors will leave you in deep thought for the rest of the night.
With subtle interjections of modern humour, a playful facetious undertone and the perpetual theme of the poor and disliked student, there are constant moments of familiarity throughout the play. Again and again, this adaptation successfully draws out Dostoyevsky’s poignancy to our own culture of individualism and excess.
“You need a lot of sleep”, Raskolnikov protests, “when you think as hard as I do”
Playing at the Limelight on Oxford, one of the most interesting aspects of this play is the set itself. The small and intimate room, which composed of an unleveled stage, a bed and a few chairs, became a part of the story in its own right through the inspired use of space. With minimal props, the authenticity of the narrative is highlighted in the acting and an engrossing use of light. Although the deep, narrow set befits the cold and claustrophobic atmosphere of the 19th century St. Petersburg, its bareness suggests that the story might be set anywhere and at any time.