Crime and Punishment at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
From the cosy interior of the bar adjoining the Jack Studio, Arrows and Traps Theatre invite theatre-goers into the infernally oppressive atmosphere of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s dark psychological masterpiece Crime and Punishment.
The foundations provided by the rich source (via an acclaimed adaptation by Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus), are inarguably solid, yet it remains a thrilling surprise to watch the note-perfect marvel that director Ross McGregor has set upon them. The play is lean, sharp, and yet conveys an exquisite degree of detail, even as the 90-minute running time passes in a thrilling blur of emotion.
Virtually ever-present on stage, Christopher Tester is an utterly commanding embodiment of Raskolnikov, a man damned first by his own fascistic sense of superiority to commit a brutal murder, and then by his fundamental human morality to languish in torturous guilt. Around him, Stephen MacNeice and Christina Baston deftly multi-role, providing both a wide cast of supporting characters and a seemingly bottomless pool of nuance and contrast. MacNeice’s main contribution is as the cannily calculating Inspector Porfiry, the cat to Raskolnikov’s dangling mouse – ultimately won over to the point of offering the redemption expertly embodied by Baston as Sonia (virginal in spite of being a prostitute). The latter’s work in rendering both the killer’s victims also deserves special mention, as does the scene in which both meet their end in brutally lugubrious slow motion.
As at a gig by an experienced band playing from a catalogue of sure-fire hits, an atmosphere of relaxed confidence underpins all three performances. There’s a feeling that every utterance and movement might be being fine-tuned on the fly so as to inflict maximum devastation on the house at any specific showing.
The cumulative effect of such mastery in writing, staging, and acting is devastating indeed. The piece demands personal investment to the point that, by the time Raskolnikov’s guilt is finally laid bare in full, one feels the pull from the whirlpool of oblivion on a visceral level. The final, unanswered, question of absolution is likely to follow the audience back out into the homely taproom, and to echo in their thoughts long after they leave it. Crime and Punishment is an utterly affecting and enthrallingly entertaining piece of theatre.
Photo: The Ocular Creative
Crime and Punishment is at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre from 7th until 25th February 2017 for further information or to book visit here.