Theatre review: Notes From The Underground, Glasgow

Playwright Chris Hannan. Picture: Neil Hanna
Playwright Chris Hannan. Picture: Neil Hanna
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On the Citizens’ main stage, Chris Hannan’s new version of Crime And Punishment powers on, a nightmare vision of the extremes to which one young man is driven by poverty, despair, and a sense of exclusion.

Notes from the Underground

Citizens’ Circle Studio, Glasgow

Star ratign: * * * *

And up in the Circle Studio, the young Visiting Company presents a brief but thrilling companion-piece, in this new 70-minute stage version of Dostoevsky’s earlier novella Notes From The Underground, in which a similar anti-hero, aged 40, considers his rambling notes on the years of his youth, when, as a minor clerk in an obscure government department, he sought friendship and solace on the streets of St Petersburg, but ended up mired in self-disgust.

In a bold stroke, Debbie Hannan’s powerful production exposes the contemporary quality of Dostoevsky’s obsession with self-examination and self-presentation by making Samuel Keefe’s Underground Man an obsessive user of social media. His older self appears on screen meditating on his need to retell the story, his younger self records interactions with others on smartphone and tablet.

Yet none of this would work without the high-risk intelligence and hair-trigger emotional intensity of Keefe’s central performance; or the quiet, insistent presence of Millie Turner as Lisa, the young prostitute he desires and abuses. And as a debut production, the whole show is put together with memorable style and flair; with fine lighting and soundtrack adding to the impact of what seems like a fiercely contemporary warning about a lost generation obsessed with image and status, and tempted to vent their simmering sense of rage and humiliation on the most vulnerable and blameless who happen to cross their path.