Fyodor Dostoyevsky's 1877 short story is here transformed into a powerful and absorbing monologue and bravely attacked by George Dillon, for whom this is only one of five solo shows he is performing across Edinburgh in a month.
It follows the anonymous narrator as he contemplates his self-worth, a hopeless existence, and his sudden failure to care for anything in the world. After a chance encounter with a little girl, who he rejects, his thoughts turn to suicide, after which a dark and vivid dream forces him to question his place in society. Dostoyevsky melds the macabre and the introspective with flashes of humour and beauty, and although falling short of excellence, this adaptation manages to capture the playwright's spirit with a brilliantly creative flair.
As gripping as ever, Dillon dives into the text with a passion and vigour that is nothing short of admirable. He is transfixing, combining a precision of diction, gesture, and emphasis with wildly inventive staging and a blisteringly compelling presence. The text itself reads like a sermon, and Dillon seizes his chance to heighten the character's sharp but wavering mind whilst also exposing his frailty. Yes, it is a pity there is not more variety, and sometimes less is more, but when Dillon is firing on all cylinders and his breakneck speed has reached its maximum, you physically feel him radiate an intense theatrical heat. There are, sadly, moments where his exaggeration hits a bum note, and you could be excused for accusing him of overacting. This does not affect the performance too much but certainly taints it ever so slightly.
The eloquence and rare skill of one of literature's greatest figures has been served beautifully. I have seen Dillon on better form, but he still impresses, and gives us an emotionally wrought evening which will linger long in the memory. It was only a pity that there was such a small audience.