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Crime and Punishment (Liverpool)

Crime and Punishment at the Liverpool Playhouse is powerful but not as engaging as you want it to be, says Carole Baldock.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Crime and Punishment

‘Now that's what you call theatre.' Eithne Brown declared, and who am I to disagree, though perhaps a few quibbles…

The set, of course, is cavernous and bleak, the atmosphere intensified by solemn song, discordant music, and ominipresent cast, who frequently comment – not so much Greek chorus, but the voices in Raskolnikov's head (a student as anguished as Hamlet), or that invisible yet audible, invariably critical, audience, in front of whom many people perform their lives.

The tension arises from his concealing the murder of the "loathsome" pawnbroker, and from his relationships, those who adore him, mother, sister and the prostitute, Sonya Marmeladov, as well as with her drunken father and the sinisterly camp police inspector, Porfiry Petrovich - George Costigan, a scene stealer in both roles.

Adam Best is undoubtedly stunning as the antihero, although at times overshadowed by a heavy Irish accent and undertones of stand-up comedian.

Unfortunately, there's some confusion with some of the women's roles, and little help from the programme. At the end, it seems that the mother has been sacrificed for Marmeladov's widow, although Cate Hamer's is a poignant portrayal; similarly, Jessica Hardwick as Sonya and Amiera Darwish as his sister, Donya.

The faintest ray of light is her switch from horrendous fiancé Luzhin (Jack Lord) to Razumikhin (Obioma Ugoala), whose description of his friend Raskolnikov does not accord with the latter's own perception yet echoes ours, in the scenes where he comes to the aid of the Marmeladov family.

An exceptionally powerful play, even for those who cannot completely engage with it; the audience's rapturous response will prove you wrong.

- Carole Baldock