As we took our seats on Thursday evening for Crime and Punishment, a play based on Dostoyevsky ‘s novel of the same name, there was already much activity on the stage. The ten actors, who took on various roles throughout the play, were already there: chatting, smoking cigarettes and drinking vodka. The scenery was minimal and the large stage was exposed right to the brickwork at the back.
As the play began, a light blanket of smoke covered the stage floor creating a sinister atmosphere. The central character, Raskolnikov or Rodya, is a penniless former student who has become more and more isolated from the rest of society: he has dropped out of university and spends his time closeted away in his small rented apartment. We see him wrestling with the idea of murdering an unscrupulous pawnbroker who preys on the poor and vulnerable in society by charging extortionate interest rates. The pawnbroker’s deviousness presents Raskolnikov with a potential justification for the perpetration of the crime as he expresses his belief that he could put her ill-gotten gains to much more honourable use.
After receiving a sign propelling him to commit the crime, Raskolnikov makes his way to the pawnbroker’s house, believing that her sister will be out for some time and that they will not be disturbed. He follows the pawnbroker through a curtain to her office and it is here that he commits the murder. The ominous atmosphere at this point was exacerbated by the atmospheric music and the red ‘blood’ dramatically splattered across the curtain. Unfortunately, Raskolnikov’s plan begins to fall apart when the pawnbroker’s sister returns unexpectedly. He is faced with little choice but to kill her too.
Following the murders, we see Raskolnikov’s descent into further mental torment. He comes under the radar of Porfiry Petrovich, the lead detective investigating the murders. Petrovich is Raskolnikov’s main antagonist, questioning him and attempting to lure him into confessing to his crimes. The interaction between the two is captivating as the pair engage in a cat and mouse game of wits.
For me, an absolute highlight of the evening was to watch the way in which the actors slipped seamlessly between roles, with those not involved in a particular scene watching on from the outskirts of the stage, voyeurs of the unfolding drama. This was a highly enjoyable play and I would definitely recommend that you go and find out for yourself how the plot unravels!