A time of social revolution, the 1860s saw the birth of two of literature's most important works on the cause and effect of crime. In the slums of San Michel, Paris, the Jean Valjean of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" fought for redemption in a cut-throat and unforgiving world, washing his sins away with prayer, altruism and an engagement with the divine.
To the East, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment took an altogether more atheist approach. Jesus is dead, it tells us, and buried with him is the notion of a communal redemption or resurrection to eternal happiness: every man is an island, no matter which political system he operates within, and a crime is committed in the name of the people, the axe falls on the individual. And it is within this selfish and solitary world that Chris Hannan's excellent adaptation of the mammoth novel finds itself.
What Hannan has deftly created feels like a modern interpretation of a lost Shakespearean work. Like the bloody Macbeth, the hero of the play's mind is full of poetry, eloquence and scorpions. What emerges is an accessible and triumphant treatise on the criminal mind, the strength of resilience and the complex social and economic theories of the 1800s.
Running for an incredible two hours and forty five minutes, this excellent production manages to avoid feeling like a prison sentence. The rhythm of the piece is partly due to the excellence of the performances of the cast. Its ensemble play a group of thieves, prostitutes and drunkards, swigging vodka from the bottles and capturing the grime of the St Petersburg slums. Speaking with power and personality, Adam Best's Raskolnikov is endearing and engrossing, displaying a rhetorical skill which further emphasises the suspense and drama at the heart of the source material.
Whilst the staging is at times a little static, the script quietly bubbles with satire and intrigue, moving as sharply as an assailant and providing an accessible insight into one of the most renowned works of all time.