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Sydney review - Crime and Punishment: a superior production

Photos by Clare Hawley

Crime and Punishment

Adapted for the stage by Chris Hannan

Based on the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Directed by Anthony Skuse

A Secret House Production

Directed by Anthony Skuse

Limelight on Oxford

231 Oxford Street


Season: December 12 – December 22. Bookings:

Who knows what it’s like to live in squalor? To be cold and hungry, full of despair with no hope?

That’s where Raskolvikov finds himself. The setting is St Petersburg in the mid-nineteenth century and he hatches a plan which will solve his present destitute state. He will rob and murder the local pawn-broker Alyona and then set himself on a course of good deeds to help others less fortunate.

The story Crime and Punishment is a study of one man’s mind and how he rationalises a deadly deed being justified by seemingly good outcomes. We all know the crime, but the punishment is the turmoil and anguish that haunts in the aftermath as he grapples with remorse, guilt and a desire to be caught.

“When I see goodness, I am a cockroach in the light” he exclaims.

A recurring theme in the play is survival. All the characters are living day by day in a harsh society where only the elite are guaranteed a reasonable standard of living. There is Marmeladov, a drunk, whose daughter Sonya resorts to prostitution in order to help her family. And Dunya, Raskolvikov’s sister, who works as a governess for a lecherous employer. She has agreed to marry Luzhin, a man of some modest wealth, but who she does not love. Her brother challenges this decision, hypocritically because of Luzhin’s apparent poor character.

As Raskolvikov’s torment worsens, the constabulary are active trying to solve the murder. The detective Porfiry suspects Raskolvikov is the prime suspect but has no concrete proof. In a series of ‘verbal jousts’ with Raskolvikov, he uses psychological tricks to help lead Raskolvikov to a confession.

Throughout the play, there are contradictions and paradoxes aplenty as characters attempt to balance morality, ethics and religious beliefs against the daily realities of living. Invariably, their choices put them at odds with the ones they love.

This production directed by Anthony Skuse is an adaptation of the novel Crime and Punishment written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It’s a dark tale and Anthony Skuse has capitalised on this in all aspects of production: the slanted stage is a timber deck which allows rays of light to beam up through the slats for a great haunting effect; the costumes are period detailed and heavy; there are few props; and a faint soundtrack in the background adds to the eeriness of the plot.

The cast is superb. Playing Raskolvikov is James Smithers. His whole demeanour and appearance defines this troubled character perfectly. Natasha Vickery is Sonya, the prostitute Raskolvikov befriends, confides in and becomes his moral compass. Dunya is played by Jane Angharad. She provides the calmness and good heart that this character requires. Porfiry, the lead investigator is confidently acted by Phillippe Klaus.

The ensemble is completed by Hannah Barlow as Pulkheria/Katerina, Tim Kemp as Razumikhin, Beth McMullen as Alyona, Madeleine Miller as Nastasya/Lizaveta, Shan-Ree Tan as Ilya and Charles Upton as Luzhin/Skabichevsky/Lebezyatnikov.

Crime and Punishment is a most enjoyable drama with intelligent dialogue, quality acting and superior production. There is plenty of case material for budding psychiatrists!

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