Crime and Punishment

Christopher Samuel Carroll and PJ Williams in Crime and Punishment photo by Canberra StreetsDespite the intimate performance space of the Street’s Theatre Two, Caroline Stacey has managed an epic production of a work which demands the audience consider questions it might otherwise choose to dodge

Adapters Marilyn Campbell-Lowe and Curt Columbus have compressed Dostoyevsky’s novel into 90 minutes of intensely demanding narrative that argues questions around one person’s right to take the life of another.

The play focusses on an impoverished law student, Raskolnikov, who having self-justified his murder of a pawnbroker attempts to outwit a wily police inspector intent on having him confess to the murder.

Christopher Samuel Carroll, as Raskolnikov, captures exactly the right degree of arrogant insolence with his portrayal of a character who refuses to be bowed by his circumstances, and who, recognising that he has a worthy intellectual adversary in the wily Inspector Porfiry, relishes the cat-and-mouse aspect of their encounters.

Similarly PJ Williams, as Porfiry, balances gravitas with an occasional hint amusement while indulging himself in a game in which both are aware can only have one ending. Both actors offer masterly, finely honed performances to savour.

Director Stacey has framed those encounters in a dark, brilliantly conceived production which strips away unnecessary detail to focus on Dostoyevsky’s powerful ideas. These are presented as a series of verbal pas de deux punctuated by narrative incidents depicted in abstract episodes in which Josephine Gazard appeared out of her depth portraying the female characters.

The deceptively minimalist setting, designed by Kathleen Kershaw, effectively utilises the brick walls of the theatre space. Two separated rows of rostra, in front of which is strewn crunchy gravel, two chairs, a microphone on a stand and very few other items, are all that are needed for Stacey and her brilliant lighting and sound designers, Darren Hawkins, and Kimmo Vennonen to conjure up vivid impressions images of Dostoyevsky’s gloomy Russian environment in which danger lurks in dank, foggy alleyways, where idealists and anarchists harangue crowds and shop-owners are murdered without mercy.

The resulting production is not only an impressive piece of theatre-making, and one that will reward audiences seeking mental challenge and stimulation, but also, for the theatrically curious, one which could serve as an enlightening introduction to the writings of Dostoyevsky.

Crime and Punishment
The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City West
Performance: Tuesday 25 June 2024
Season continues to 7 July 2024
Information and Bookings:

Image: Christopher Samuel Carroll and PJ Williams in Crime and Punishment – photo by Canberra Streets

Review: Bill Stephens OAM