Dundee Rep ensemble pull off moving and powerful version of Tolstoy's classic love story
Jo Clifford's adaptation of the Russian classic strips Tolstoy's epic back to its bare essentials
Despite the occasional casting oddities that arise from matching a permanent ensemble to the requirements of a text, Dundee Rep pull off a moving and powerful version of one of the pinnacles in Russian literature. Jo Clifford’s lovely 2005 adaptation of Anna Karenina strips out Tolstoy’s digressions into 19th century agrarian policy to focus on the twin love stories at the heart of the epic novel. The sequence of brief scenes moves forward at a stately pace in Jemima Levick’s production, whose deep, minimal open stage set, created by Alex Lowde, allows for a certain fluidity in the action that is at first disorientating, but gradually builds to a heart-rending finale.
Kevin Lennon (Constantin Levin) and Helen Darbyshire (Katy) create a very touching portrait of young love blindly negotiating the capriciousness of life. In contrast, the central relationship between Anna (Emily Winter) and Count Vronsky initially seems a little subdued, with Tony McKeever perhaps lacking the required authority for the role of the dashing army officer. Winter, however, really comes into her own as Anna’s isolation, paranoia and laudanum habit take hold and she embarks on her final, passionate stream of consciousness.
While slow-paced and bleak, both in its look and subject matter, the piece gains levity from some of its supporting performances, notably Robert Paterson as the chaotic civil servant Oblonsky and Ann Louise Ross as disgruntled housekeeper Agatha Mikhailovna.