Crime and Punishment Review

Jack Studio Theatre 7 – 25 February.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Arrows & Traps return to the Jack Studio in triumphant form with Marilyn Campbell and Curt Columbus’s adaptation of Crime and Punishment. Pared down into a 90-minute production, the psychological punch of this doorstop of a novel is enhanced rather than diluted. There are no filler lines – everything uttered, every single action, is important and revealing.

Raskolnikov’s conviction that extraordinary people can commit crimes for the greater good of humanity crumbles in the aftermath of the murder of the old pawnbroker and her innocent sister. Conversations take place back to back, characters prowl constantly in circles around the set as the isolation and motivations are revealed. The idea of redemption is constantly haunting Raskolnikov as the story of Lazarus and belief in God are questioned and his intellectual theories and morality collide. The fractured timeline, full of memories, dreams and the seemingly benign probing of Inspector Porfiry portrays the darkness and torment of Raskolnikov with chilling and enthralling skill. This is a play that grabs you by the balls and doesn’t release its grip until the cast take their bows.

Christopher Tester is phenomenal as Raskolnikov – capturing the initial intellectual arrogance so well that his final confession and acceptance of his true nature is all the more devastating. Christina Baston multitasks in the female roles with great skill, but it is her pure and self-sacrificing Sonia that is most effecting. The moment she loses herself completely in telling the tale of Lazarus after initially struggling to read it is glorious. Stephen MacNeice also plays multiple roles effortlessly. His charming and dogged Porfiry is basically a prototype Lt. Columbo, with his admiration for the suspect always bubbling away as he tries to catch him out. None of these actors puts a foot wrong – utterly captivating performances.

Director Ross McGregor has a fantastic track record in finding the right atmosphere for a play – the minimal set and masterful lighting design ramps up the confusion and tension, and the musical choices are, as ever just brilliant. From the murder played out in slow motion to Exit Music, to the Doctor Zhivago-esque rendition of modern classics in the bar scenes, this is pitch perfect.

You’ll probably need a drink when you leave the theatre – this play will put you through the emotional wringer. Stunning.