two years since Nancy Harris's riveting adaptation of Tolstoy's
The Kreutzer Sonata premiered at the Gate. Now the
play returns with the same cast and creative team in advance of a
transfer across the pond for a run at La MaMa Experimental Theatre
Club in New York. It will assuredly impress as many people this time
round as it did on its first outing.
protagonist, a respectable-looking and initially personable
middle-aged gentleman, is on a train journey, but where to, we do not
know. He begins to speak, telling first of the imminent arrival in
town of a famous violinist before segueing onto the subject of
brothels, and finally settling on the story of how he proposed to his
wife. This trio of topics – music, sex and the desire to possess
and control an object of love – all three foregrounded in the first
minute of the drama, are the central concerns of Harris's play, the
story of a crime apparently motivated by music.
McRae gives a compelling performance as Pozdynyshev, the anti-hero
of Tolstoy's 1889 novella, drip-feeding us clues about the
character's psychopathic nature and misogynist tendencies. Harris
handles the pacing of the story beautifully, ensuring that we are kept almost mesmerised by
Pozdynyshev's confession throughout.
to the rich atmosphere is the music that underscores much of the
piece. Sophie Scott and Tobias Beer play Pozdynyshev's unnamed
wife and Trukhackhevski, the man with whom he believes she is having an affair. The
only evidence of their supposed romance is the passionate music they
create together, she on piano, he on violin and it is this that haunts Pozdynyshev. The music itself is a
wonderful touch that elevates the play from the ranks of standard
monologue drama, but the frequency with which Scott and Beer are
revealed behind a scrim, as it were in flashback, is overly literal
and ultimately distracting.
flaw aside, sensitive direction by Natalie Abrahami and effective
set and sound design by Chloe Lamford and Carolyn Downing respectively, combined with Harris's strong storytelling and McRae's nuanced portrayal, ensure that The Kreutzer Sonata
offers a very satisfying theatre experience indeed.