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Anna Karenina review at Arcola London

This stage adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel is the debut production of a company formed by recent graduates from the Birmingham School of Acting.

In Helen Edmundson’s adaptation, originally written for Shared Experience, the novel’s plot is condensed into a dialogue between Anna and Levin, their two stories circling one another. Max Webster’s production is elegantly executed, the cast hopping nimbly between roles and scenes, but sometimes the sheer visual busyness threatens to overwhelm, with scenes of birth and death and showers of paper snow jostling for stage space.

While there’s an admirable energy to the staging, it wears its influences heavily. For every moment of atmospheric richness or of wit and originality – Andy Rush’s thrusting Vronsky is picked up and physically deposited in front of Anna no matter where she turns – there’s another moment that owes a considerable debt to Shared Experience, to Complicite or to Katie Mitchell.

The company has yet to find its own visual language, and while the performances of Elizabeth Twells, as Anna, and Tristan Pate, as Levin, are polished and solid, they seem to steer carefully clear of the edge, their displays of rawness and intensity never fully convincing.

Production Information

Arcola, London, March 21-April 16

Helen Edmundson, adapted from Leo Tolstoy
Max Webster
The Piano Removal Company
Cast includes
Elizabeth Twells, Adam Alexander, Zoe Claire, Maryann O’Brien, Tristan Pate, Andy Rush, Sophie Waller
Running time
2hrs 35mins
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