City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Crime and Punishment, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Review

By Bill Dunlop - Posted on 25 October 2013

Show Details
Citizens Theatre and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
Chris Hannan (writer), Domininc Hill (director), Colin Richmond (designer), Chris Davey (lighting designer), Nikola Kodjabashia (composer and sound designer)
Adam Best (Raskolnikov), Mabel Clements (Nastasya), George Costigan (Porfiry Petrovich / Marmaladov), Ameria Darwish (Dunya), Chris Donald (Skabichevsky / Lebezyatnikov), Ctae Hamer (Alonya / Pulkerhia / Katernia / Darya), Jessica Hardwick (Sonya), John Paul Hurley (Ilya Petrovich), Jack Lord (Luzhin), Obioma Ugoala (Razumikhin)
Running time: 

It’s always good to watch theatre companies taking an ambitious turn, and they can hardly come more ambitious than dramatising a novel as large in scope and vision as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’.

To describe Dostoyevsky’s probably best-known work as an exploration of the mind of a murderer, or a study of the alienating effects of modern urban living would both be trivialisations; our sympathies for all its characters are tempered by the choices they appear to be inexorably drawn to make.

‘Personally, Sir, I prefer the great Russians’ P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves remarks, after enduring an evening watching a light comedy in which his employer, Bertie Wooster, is considering investing. Whether Jeeves would have enjoyed this adaptation of the work of one of his favourite novelists must remain an open question, but this reviewer was certainly impressed.

Adam Best delivers an excellent Raskolnikov, the student turned murderer, justifying his attack on an ageing pawnbroker and her sister as an exercise in breaking societal norms. In this production as in the novel, it is the ‘lesser’ characters who challenge his reversal of morality, as much by their weaknesses as their strengths.

Dominic Hill’s direction produces excellent ensemble work throughout; it’s undoubtedly invidious but also necessary to point up George Costigan’s Marmeladov and Porfiry Petrovich, Jessica Hardwick’s Sonya and Ameira Darwich’s Dunya among a strong and very hard-working cast, who are also given ample opportunity to demonstrate their musical and vocal skills.

Unavoidably, it’s clear that the company have wrestled with what are often seen as the internal contradictions of Dostoyevsky’s moral fable. Chris Hannan’s script does more than justice to the narrative, but like many of us, seems at times to struggle with Dostoyevsky’s particular vision.

If Raskolnikov (whose name, in Russian, suggests ‘schismatic’ or ‘outsider’), is an Everyman is search of ethics, our present sensibilities are disconcerted that he appears to embrace the ‘simple’ Christianity of the teenage prostitute Sonya, ignoring how hard-won and kept this character’s faith is in face of occupational hazard and the selfishness of her parents, the Marmeladovs.

Dostoyevsky is too purposeful an artist to relapse into simplification, however, and ‘Crime and Punishment’ continues and will surely continue to perplex and stimulate in equal measure. It’s a tribute to all concerned that we leave the theatre enriched by the encounter even as we puzzle on its meaning.

At some two and a half hours playing time, this production feels (momentarily) as epic as its subject, but even as we step onto the pavement on an autumnally chilly Edinburgh evening, the rewards remain.

To borrow from Seth Macfarlane’s paraplegic policeman, Joe Swanson, ‘let’s do this’.

Runs til 9th November

Ticket Prices

£12 - £27.50