By Nahima Kern
Diary of a Madman
Written by Nikolai Gogol and Adapted by David Holman
Directed by Michael Futcher
Season runs until March 5. Duration 90 minutes without interval. Bookings: https://brisbanepowerhouse.org/whats-on/event/diary-of-a-madman/
Diary of a Madman, from Nikolai Gogol’s eponymously titled short story, is a tale for the modern age. Adapted by David Holman for stage, it follows the story of one man’s descent into madness following an unrequited love.
Aksentii Poprishchin is a man on a mission to win the affection of the daughter of his employer. However, his subsequent fall into insanity after being rejected drags the audience, and indeed the rest of the play into a farcical romp that plays on Russian story-telling tropes very effectively, bringing the story to an end that surprised no one.
With just two actors powering through the 90-minute duration, Gogol’s timeless classic has been refreshed and renewed for the here and now by Matrix Theatre. Directed by Michael Futcher, the opening night of ‘Madman’ had the audience hooked on what was a short but intense drama, full of typical Russian existentialism and minimalism. Starring Rowman Chapman (pictured) as the titular Poprishchin and Sarah McIntosh, as the rest of the cast, these two actors had a gravity and intensity that really made the show unique and powerful.
As Chapman’s Poprishchin bellowed towards his delusions and uncertain fate, the audience was swept along for the ride, and judging by the laughter at the farcical nature of most of the play, they were loving it. The set by Josh McIntosh embodied the spirit of the play by keeping it simple, and with the moody lighting devised by Jason Glenwright, the audience was transported to a dingy lodging in 19th Century Russia. The two actors barrelled through their performances with an energy that was high and matched the intensity of the overall story to great effect.
What was most enjoyable about Diary of a Madman, was not only the setting, and performances, but also there was a light-heartedness to this play that belied any semblance of darkness that might have been obvious, and gave the audience something to think about. Thought-provoking theatre is always interesting and gives something more profound than just what’s at face value. As the audience departed into the rainy night, the atmosphere was dull, wet, and well… Soviet.