Katie Mitchell’s latest show is a visually rich adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1869 classic, The Idiot, a sprawling novel which tells the story of the saintly Prince Myshkin’s love for two women, the worldly Nastasya Filippovna and the sheltered Aglaya. But although he loves them equally, events force him to choose between them as he finds himself in competition with Rogozhin, a rich peasant.
All the great set pieces of this turbulent novel are alluded to, from the wild scene in which Rogozhin offers to buy Nastasya for a hundred thousand roubles to the tragic climax in which both men spend the night in the same room as her murdered body. But, as in Mitchell’s Waves (2006), the action is split between different actors and projected live on a large screen.
Filmed in a lush monochrome which evokes the fifties, these sequences are wonderfully atmospheric, although much depends on the audience knowing the story in advance. Mitchell, who devised the piece with her company, captures the hallucinatory nature of Dostoevsky’s novel, and especially Myshkin’s epileptic fits, at the cost of the novel’s sense of teeming social life.
The two outstanding performances are Ben Whishaw’s Myshkin, a soul both troubled and compassionate, and Hattie Morahan’s Nastasya, an abuse victim torn between self-loathing and pride. The rest of the company - Jamie Ballard, Pandora Colin, Sam Crane, Gawn Grainger, Helena Lymbery and Bradley Taylor - give us glimpses into some of the other characters, and everyone helps out with the filming. With the addition of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and Paul Clark’s luscious music, this is a memorable evening of experiment, desire and sensual enjoyment.