by Leo Tolstoy adapted by Helen Edmundson.

Arcola Theatre (Studio 1) 24 Ashwin Street Dalston E8 3DL To 16 April 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat 9,16 April 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7503 1646.
Review: Carole Woddis 24 March.

We’ll see much more of many of them in the future. You saw them here first.
The Arcola, having forsaken its original, ld sewing factory premises in Arcola Street, is smaller and rougher in its foyer resources.

Judging by Studio 1 where graduates of Birmingham’s School of Acting are performing Helen Edmundson’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic Russian novel, they have however, gained in performing space. Spacious and much higher than the old Arcola, it is clearly going to lend itself to a multitudinous variety of stagings.
BSA’s Anna Karenina certainly does the space proud. Director Max Webster has brought Edmundson’s much-praised adaptation, first performed by Shared Experience, to startingly fresh life.

Shared Experience have always been known for the physicality of their stagings. Webster – clearly a name to watch – brings no less imagination and invention to his production.

A myriad number of moments stand out: the ensemble threshing hay in which Levin, the narrator of Anna’s story – and like Tolstoy a landowner – finds solace and sustenance as a product of Nature; the solemnity of Levin and Kitty’s marriage introduced by a background of fairy lights; Vronsky racing his horse to its death, enacted by Anna as though he were riding her, at once symbolic and terrifically sexual.

Everywhere the hallmark of Webster’s production is physical, economic and inventive originality as in, from the outset, the use of microphones to interrogate characters’ motives even as they are living them out.

The cast of mind is inevitably post-modern – we have snatches of Dylan and Peter Sarstedt’s ironic ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ – but also unaffectedly sincere with some lovely Russian folk songs sung by the whole cast.

In the end, this Anna Karenina comes over as a very Christian message from Tolstoy about forgiveness and the capacity for good despite human lapses.

There are fine performances all-round but the ones that especially caught my eye were Elizabeth Twells, endowed with a Grace Kelly cool, who acquires deep sensuality as love and passion overtake her, Tristan Pate as the constantly doubting Levin and Maryann O’Brien as a luminous Kitty.

We’ll see much more of many of them in the future. You saw them here first.

Anna: Elizabeth Twells.
Princess Betsy/Agatha/Governess/Railway Widow: Zoë Claire.
Dolly/Countess Vronksy: Sophie Waller.
Karenin/Priest: Adam Alexander.
Vronsky/Nikolai: Andy Rush.
Levin: Tristan Pate.
Stiva/Bailiff/Petritsky: James Mountain.
Kitty/Seriozha: Maryann O’Brien.
Peasants/Muffled figures: Members of the company.

Director: Max Webster.
Designer: David Crisp.
Lighting: Penny Gaize.
Sound: Adrienne Quartly.
Costume: Jackie Cottom.
Assistant director: Naomi O’Kelly.

First performed by Shared Experience at Theatre Royal Windsor on 30 January 1992.
This new production opened at Arcola Theatre London on 21 March 2011.

2011-03-28 10:35:30

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