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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anna Karenina, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Anna Karenina
Dundee Rep
3 stars
When Anna Karenina takes up with her lover Vronsky, someone says she has "gained a shadow". She is not the only one. The characters in Jemima Levick's production are forever being cast as towering silhouettes on the flat wall of Alex Lowde's set. That's when there's no smoky video footage of billowing clouds wafting over it. With the dry ice that accompanies the fateful steam engines that top and tail the show, the mood is as much Brief Encounter as Tolstoy.

Jo Clifford's adaptation strips the novel down to its two tales of social defiance. There is Anna, rejecting her husband's respectability in favour of a lusty young army officer who complains that "no one listens to their heart". And there is Levin, turning against urban materialism in favour of the ethics of the countryside.

It is classily done in a fluid and spacious staging. Kevin Lennon makes a loveable Levin, his arms flailing like a man possessed of a singular idea, and John Buick grows ever more austere – and frightening – as Anna's cuckolded husband. But where Emily Winter made a credible Nora in A Doll's House last year, she fails to find the gravitas to make the full journey as Anna. As the put-upon wife, she seems mildly peeved; as the run-away adulterer she is moderately passionate – much like Tony McGeever's crop-headed Vronsky. With so weak an erotic charge between them, there is too little at stake for us to care about the consequences of their actions, leaving an emotional deficit at the heart of a polished production.

© Mark Fisher 2011
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