Brothers Karamazov (2 stars)

Brothers Karamazov

Tom England and Thierry Mabonga / credit: John Johnston

Dostoyevsky adaptation takes too long to ignite

Richard Crane's adaptation of the nineteenth century Dostoyevsky morality novel feels more like an exercise in creating ribald entertainment rather than a richly theatrical performance, with episodic action replacing pure storytelling. The four titular brothers, wrestling with issues around religion, mental health, crime and sexual misconduct, come across as conduits rather than characters. The play, which was created for theatre in the early eighties, has not aged well, despite some knowing nods to contemporary dramaturgy, such as the song and dance interludes.

A cappella monastic harmonies and eccentric dances cannot hide the hollowness within, as the often moribund production struggles to reconcile the desire to play fast and loose with convention; alongside the metaphor of a broken family representing the decline of Russia as a political powerhouse. Overlapping dialogue and the actors initially playing different roles only confuses matters more.

However, the second half eventually hits its stride, particularly during the fraught court case scene,with particular emphasis on Sean Biggerstaff as the philosophical nihilist Ivan whose rejection of faith is the backbone of the narrative, and the very watchable Mark Brailsford as self-confessed fool Smerdyakov, injecting a much needed shot of real charisma into proceedings. But it takes a long time in finding any kind of consistency.

Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 12–26 Oct.

Brothers Karamazov

A retelling of Dostoyevsky's last novel that fiercely debates God, freewill and morality.

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