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Brothers Karamazov review at Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘lacks intensity’

Tom England and Thierry Mabonga in Brothers Karamazov at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston Tom England and Thierry Mabonga in Brothers Karamazov at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Photo: John Johnston
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Richard Crane’s dramatisation of Brothers Karamazov is an ambitious attempt to condense the epic scale of the Russian novel into two hours. Sadly, much of the complexity of Dostoyevsky’s novel is reduced to blunt declamation of his religious and philosophical musings.

The dynamic moral anxiety that drives the novel is given plenty of time, but this is in the form of long speeches and direct storytelling. The personalities of the brothers become symbols of their vices – the intellectual, the sensualist, the spiritual and the excluded. As a result a lot of the dramatic tension that lends the novel its intensity is lost.

The ensemble cast hop between roles in a way that further muddies characterisation – and the role of the father, victim of a murder which appears to be parricide, is shared between them. Mark Brailsford’s smarmy Smeerdyakov, however, catches an officious obsequiousness that hides a moral emptiness.

The chaos of the final court scene does express Dostoyevsky’s shifting of perspectives, and manages to resolve a confusing script into a tight finale. The incoherence of certain scenes in Faynia Williams’ production is less the result of the brother’s abandon or puritanism, rather a struggle to convey the breadth of the source text.

Williams’ production is old fashioned both in its desire to follow the novel’s narrative arc and in its use of a small cast to concentrate the drama. The singing and dance interludes often distract from the seriousness of the action.

Carys Hobbs’ handsome set and the energy of the cast notwithstanding, this is a disappointing summary of a rich and provocative novel.

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A disappointing adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s huge philosophical novel that fails to capture its breadth and depth