Crime and Punishment
Chris Hannan and Dominic Hill transform Dostoyevsky's novel into over two hours of gripping drama
We know whodunnit. We know, those of us who studied Crime and Punishment for Higher English (which is most of the Citz audience), why he dunnit. The real joy here is to see how writer Chris Hannan and director Dominic Hill have turned Dostoyevsky's philosophical doorstop into over two hours of gripping drama.
Hannan's script ranges across the original text, transforming Raskolnikov’s internal monologues into impassioned soliloquies. Hill puts Northern Irish actor Adam Best – every bit the miserable student with his mildewed overcoat and prison yard stare – in the lead and backs him up with a powerful, ten-strong ensemble that bang drums, clank piano keys, solicit for business, slosh down vodka and, movingly, become an Orthodox Russian choir.
These he places them on a stripped-back stage, their instruments and props visible, to wait on mismatched chairs while Best paces the rest of the space with only his demons for company. Doors are wheeled in as needed. The cast act as a cheerful chorus to Raskolnikov's anguish and Chris Davey’s skilful lighting scheme gives everyone the harsh pallor of poverty. Hill’s vision is strong enough to take a familiar text and make it fresh and vital. There are similarities with his 2012 King Lear: the grunge aesthetic, discordant soundscape, open staging, but also the feeling of a strong, confident voice, comfortable enough with classic texts to retool them for the 21st century.
With the pawnbroker’s spattered blood mopped up well before the interval, the pace flags slightly in the second half. But Best's intensity does not waver and actor intern Jessica Hardwick as Sonia, the devout prostitute, is the redemptive light to his relentless shade. Cate Hamer shoulders four roles and particularly impresses as the widow Katerina. It’s a supreme team and they play a blinder.
Reviewed at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 22 Oct–Sat 9 Nov.