Theatre review: A Hero Of Our Time, C royale

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“He has a pompous phrase for every opportunity without an ounce of poetry in his soul.” So says charismatic Russian military man Pechorin of his on-and-increasing-off friend Grunshnitsky in this vibrant adaptation of Mikhail Lermontov’s 19th century novel, which brings to life a passionate story of unrequited love and action-packed adventure, all in a tiny basement.

A Hero Of Our Time, C royale (Venue 6) ****

The direction, by Vladimir Shcherban (of the Belarus Free Theatre) is thrillingly well conceived for the small space and, using music, projections and Lermontov’s rich, heady language, takes us through a world of dances, debauchery, drinking and illicit romance as the smell of expensive cologne fills the space. He seamlessly stitches together contemporary and period references to create an alternative, fantasy world of a bygone era – one where every trust-funded young man was both a fighter and a poet.

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Shcherban is also behind the adaptation, along with Oliver Bennett, a dynamic performer, who, with fellow star James Marlowe, brings out the cut-class charisma and devil-may-care attitude of the two friends-turned-rivals. Meanwhile, Anastasiya Zinovieva adds some bo-ho chic as the two women Pechorin is torn between: singing sensation Princess Mary and too-cool-care Vera.

“This world isn’t big enough for the two of us,” one of the men says before their final encounter on a cliffside, neither of them prepared to back down over their dispute. In theory this play shouldn’t be big enough for this room either. But it is, and the results are a sugar rush of intrigue and excitement that takes us on a ­rollercoaster ride back to an imagined past full of enlivening energy, kisses behind curtains and the melodrama of the young, superrich of their time.

• Until 27 August, 5:45pm