by Fyodor Dostoyevsky adapted by Laurence Boswell.
Ustinov Studio BA1 1ET To 22 December 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 01225 448844.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 November.
Well-played double trouble for divided hero.
Proving that Fyodor (Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov) Dostoyevsky could write short novels, The Double strikingly depicts a mind crashing under sensations of failure and disintegrating as another self appears, exuding all the success and swaggger eluding the original.
It’s become an often-used device, in film especially, usually with a comic tinge. But Dostoyevsky firmly controls the tone – like the flatness of Kafka’s prose, although the Russian uses it to explore the sense of what it is like to be the minor civil servant, an insignificant nut in an endless machine.
Once again the Ustinov contributes to this autumn’s ‘Transformations’ trio, itself transforming from the ordered space of an 18th-century home in The Welsh Boy and the garish playground-garden of Toby Litt’s deadkidsongs to this overtly theatrical space, flat forestage and three-door rear wall suggesting ancient Greek or Elizabethan playhouses, with hints of the great 19th-century theatres in the proscenium décor.
As Goliadkin makes his way through one door to a room where he’s not invited, or behaves embarrassingly, and is thrown-out through another within seconds, the comic urge of the action is repressed by the contrary pull of his mental state.
Laurence Boswell, Artistic Director of the Ustinov and director of this show, creates the atmosphere of 19th-century Russian society – and climate – as Goliadkin travels round Moscow, searching, coming across his confident Double, and collapsing inside even as he plots manically on the exterior.
Meanwhile his idealised, unobtainable beloved floats over him as a slight, elegant puppet, while the Double begins as simply a black-bearded head, merging as had Goliadkin himself from white shrouds. Slowly, as the idea takes root in Goliadkin’s mind, the puppet acquires body and limbs, moving at first awkwardly, new-born, then with confidence.
In his isolated state, Simon Scardifield’s Goliadkin maintains his sense of self, unaware of his delusion, in a finely-judged performance. Those around him characterise the normality that exploits or rejects him.
Some patches play overtly as prose transplanted from the page, but at best the comments around Scardifield’s protagonist hint in tone at the loosening hinge connecting him to the world around.
Mr Goliadkin: Simon Scardifield.
Storyteller/Anton Antonovich: Rob Edwards.
Klara Olsufievna/Karolina Ivanova: Jane Leaney.
Vladimir Semyonovich/ Scriverenko: Nicholas Karimi.
Petrushka/Andrei Filippovich/Ostafyev: Sean Murray.
Director: Laurence Boswell.
Designer/Costume: Ti Green.
Lighting: Ben Ormerod.
Sound/Composer: Jon Nicholls.
Movement: Lucy Cullingford.
Puppets: Sarah Wright.
Assistant director: Jessica Edwards.
Associate costume: Katie Lias.