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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, September 29, 2013

Theatre review: Crime and Punishment

Published in the Guardian
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars
DOSTOYEVSKY'S great philosophical novel is like Shakespeare's Hamlet in reverse. Early in the story, the fatal deed is done; the procrastination, self-analysis and madness follows thereafter. There's little rationale in the double murder by Raskolnikov, the student drop-out, and it takes the bulk of the story for him to come to terms with it.

Thus, with the bloodbath dispensed with in this powerful staging en route to Liverpool and Edinburgh, we find Adam Best's Raskolnikov facing out to the audience, his body stooped, near-crippled, as one hand rises neurotically above his bare head as if to grasp a solution to his existential predicament. Only by subjecting himself to a purgatorial punishment will he find redemption. Until then, it'd be no surprise if he broke into "to be or not to be".

In Dominic Hill's production – stark in presentation, rich in detail – this is a journey shared by the whole community. The 10-strong cast lurk on stage, emulating the teeming streets of an impoverished St Petersburg. Their babble of voices echoes the confusion of Raskolnikov's thoughts; their percussive bumps and scrapes (an excellent score by Nikola Kodjabashia) are a reminder of the city's buzz. Much as Raskolnikov would like to see himself as superior and independent, he is inseparable from his society.

It's a society beset by a brutal want of cash, a theme underscored by Colin Richmond's set of mismatched chairs, bare walls and springless couches. His poor-theatre aesthetic reminds you that the drinking, prostitution, tuberculosis, hunger, perhaps the murders themselves, all have their roots in poverty.

To find a theatrical structure, adaptor Chris Hannan roams freely through the novel. He turns interior monologue into direct address, thins out subplots and reconfigures the sequence of events to fashion a fluid route through the story. It's one the vigorous ensemble tells with drive and authority.

© Mark Fisher 2013
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