Monday, 9 January 2012

Theatre review: The Kreutzer Sonata

PREVIEW DISCLAIMER: Although this is a returning production, the performance reviewed was technically a preview.

Natalie Abrahami and Carrie Cracknell may have finished their programme as Artistic Directors of the Gate but we have a bit longer to wait to see what Christopher Haydon will bring as the outgoing regime gets to do an encore: Abrahami's 2009 production The Kreutzer Sonata returns with the same cast and creatives. Tolstoy imagined his 1889 short story being publicly performed to the accompaniment of live music, so Nancy Harris' adaptation turns it into a monologue for Pozdynyshev (Hilton McRae.) A train journey brings on a confessional mood for Pozdynyshev and we get the story of his wife's suspected infidelity, and the Beethoven piece that the narrator blames. Designer Chloe Lamford's train compartment set is smashed up, aptly introducing a violent tone, and it uses the Gate's deep stage to provide background images to the story: As well as occasional projections the carriage walls also go transparent to reveal Sophie Scott and Tobias Beer, acting out the other two sides of the love triangle and providing the aforementioned music (piano and violin respectively.)

Though effective, these visuals are sparingly used, the piece ultimately being a showcase for McRae's tightly wound-up performance, shaking for most of the time with suppressed fury that only rarely, but devastatingly, gets unleashed. The Kreutzer Sonata is an intense little piece with a well-maintained sense of menace.

The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy, adapted by Nancy Harris, is booking until the 18th of February at the Gate Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

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