I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Does the end ever justify the means?
Is there any circumstance where the end justifies the means? Can a heinous criminal act be an acceptable undertaking if the cause is just? These are the questions thrown up in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's epic novel, Crime and Punishment, which hits the stage at Limelight on Oxford this December. The original text has been adapted for the stage by Chris Hannan and presented by Secret House for a limited season.
A destitute and ill student, Raskolnikov, contemplates brutal murder and robbery to save his sister from entering into an arranged marriage to help her family survive. Starving and desperate, Raskolnikov's actions lead him down a path of no return where he is forced to examine his worldview with new eyes.
Director Anthony Skuse has pulled together an exquisite and simple production, featuring a strong ensemble of actors. A slow-moving, intricate work, Crime and Punishment keeps the audience in suspense unsure of what conclusion the play will reach. Martin Kinnane's lighting design is sparse and supports the play well, although I found the transition from stage lights to fluro lighting in the interrogation scenes a little too jarring, despite that being the intention. The transition from the stage world to a modern-looking light pulled me out of the world a little.
Overall, the look and feel of the world of Crime and Punishment is an interesting one. At first glance, the wooden floorboard, sparse set looks fantastic. However, as the play continues and we are thrown headfirst into a world of poverty and illness, I can't help but think that this all looks too clean. The squalor of the impoverished Russia that Dostoyevsky wrote of is nowhere to be seen and both set and costumes feel too clean and contrived.
James Smithers takes on the role of Raskolnikov and brings all the aloofness and pain to the part as is required. He captures the essence of the disillusioned student well, but at times it would be nice to see a touch more vulnerability as he questions what he's done. Natasha Vickery as the sex worker Sonya brings a feisty spirit to her role and her performance feels traditional and contemporary all at once - that is, her character work feels fully realised and totally relatable. Hannah Barlow as Sonya's consumptive stepmother cuts a pitiable figure and her deterioration throughout the play feels genuine. The performances from the entire ensemble are strong with the actors gelling nicely to create the world of the play.
Crime and Punishment is heavy going. There are a few wry laughs, but mostly, this is a play of desperation, need and poverty. That said, the execution is mostly excellent and yet again Secret House prove why they're one of the top indie theatre companies on the Sydney circuit.