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Theatre Review by Leonard Miller
What: The Parricide
Where: La Mama Theatre
When: 7th - 25th May
Written by Diane Stubbings
Directed by Karen Berger
Performed by Lyall Brooks, Olivia Monticciolo, Nick Simpson-Deeks, Zoe Ellerton-Ashley and Daniel Last.
Well conceived and written, Diane Stubbings’ The Parricide is an intriguing biographical insight into one of Russia’s best known, nineteenth century writers, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Staged in the intimate space of La Mama, the play interweaves an account of the period in which the literary heavyweight (played by Lyall Brooks) met his second wife, Anna (played by Olivia Monticciolo) and glimpses into the genesis and narrative of two of his novels, 'The Brothers Karamazov' and 'The Gambler'.
Taking place in the 1860s, the action is set against the background of political unrest that followed the Tsar’s deconstruction of the medieval serf system. Stubbings’ dialogue works intelligently as it both evokes this period and is eerily reminiscent of the revolutionary diatribes of today. It brings to mind both the Occupy movement of the western world and the uprisings that have been shaking northern Africa and the Middle East.
In her notes, director Karen Berger addresses this parallel and it is here that the work demonstrates its greatest strength. Berger’s touch is also evident in the transitions between biographical action and the fictional depictions from Dostoyevsky’s novels. These are not always clear but resolve beautifully. By the time the cast take their bows, the audience is clear on who is who and what is what.
Brooks is entirely believable as the tortured author and is successful in overcoming the fact he is a little young to be an entirely accurate depiction of the author at forty-five. His charisma is compelling, as is the equally watchable Monticciolo. The other performances are solid with each character well drawn by a cast with much experience. It is therefore unfortunate that there seems to be little cohesion within the ensemble. Each performance feels self contained, and while the characters are finely portrayed, the interactions between them fail to ring with truth.
Christine Urquhart’s set and costuming complement the piece but seem a little stale in their conception. This could be due to the excessively extravagant and at times upstaging lighting design by Douglas Montgomery. Berger has also made an interesting choice in her configuration of the space with the action sometimes feeling cramped and uncomfortable.
Fans of Dostoyevsky will take a lot from this show, but it has something to offer everyone. It is obvious much care and consideration has gone into every decision and at ninety minutes it is well paced. With a little more honest interaction between the cast and a greater belief in the excellent script this could have been great. As it stands it is very good and definitely worth a watch.The elements that work well generally compensate for those that don’t and it will surely get you thinking.
3.5 stars