Theatre review: Crime and Punishment, Glasgow

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ALL civilisations are founded, so we’re told, on the death of men; the only question is who is allowed to do the killing, on our behalf.

Crime and Punishment

Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow

* * * *

In Dostoevsky’s great 1866 novel Crime And Punishment, the hero Raskolnikov – a failed law student half-crazed with hunger and poverty – decides to put his philosophical speculations on violence into practice, by killing a pawnbroker to whom he owes money; and it’s around the central narrative of Raskolnikov’s crime – his act of murder, his response, his eventual penitence – that the writer Chris Hannan and Citizens’ director Dominic Hill weave their magnificent new stage version of the novel.

On a stripped-back stage superbly lit by Chris Davey, with the cast of ten actors always on view – watching, muttering, twanging musical instruments, changing clothes – Hannan’s Raskolnikov, played with terrific subtlety and intensity by Adam Best, transforms his long internal monologues into mighty stage soliloquies, arguing with the audience as Raskolnikov argues with the universe. Hannan and Hill make it clear that for all his solitary rantings, Raskolnikov is never really alone; the other actors become a street-full of people muttering their dissent, and – in Nikola Kodjabashia’s superb score – becoming a magnificent orthodox choir.

There are moments, towards the end, when the pace flags slightly, and the conversations become a shade introverted. These are minor flaws, though, in a fluent, beautiful, profoundly theatrical account of one of the great stories of world literature; one that boasts a breathtaking performance from Jessica Hardwick as Sonja, the fragile prostitute whose love opens up what might, for Raskolnikov, finally be a second chance of life.