Venue: Limelight on Oxford (Darlinghurst NSW), Dec 12 – 22, 2018
Playwright: Chris Hannan (from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Director: Anthony Skuse
Cast: Jane Angharad, Hannah Barlow, Tim Kemp, Philippe Klaus, Beth McMullen, Madeleine Miller, James Smithers, Shan-Ree Tan, Charles Upton, Natasha Vickery
Images by Clare Hawley
When deciding to proceed with his plan for murder and robbery, Raskolvikov thinks of his actions as merely an extension of attempts to participate, in an economy he considers to be entirely utilitarian. If one is to survive the world at all costs, and if cost is always a matter of subjectivity, then the concept of morality holds no currency, in a system determined to reward the self-interested. Chris Hannan explores the implications of what might be termed human conscience in his adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime And Punishment. The protagonist wrestles with internal conflicts, emotional and intellectual, trying to escape punishment, from society and from himself.
The bleakness of Raskolvikov’s destitute existence is depicted persuasively under Anthony Skuse’s direction, whose own production design accomplishes an elegant evocation of Russia at a time we associate with the end of the Industrial Revolution, and the rise of urbanisation as we know it. Skuse’s sound design too, is an affecting element, if slightly repetitive in its rendering. Lights by Martin Kinnane bring visual interest, helpful in creating a sense of dynamism for the production. Actor James Smithers is convincing in the leading role, able to prevent us from feeling alienated, so that we stay engaged with the murderer’s narrative. Chemistry between performers can be improved for a more focused sense of storytelling, but individual characters are portrayed with good conviction.
The work posits the loss of religion as a possible equivalence to the loss of morality, thereby giving religion a great deal of credit where it may not be due. In the decades that have past since Dostoyevsky’s 1866 publication of Crime And Punishment, atheism has become a movement undeniable in its ubiquity, and secular societies have demonstrated that our capacity for upholding that which is truly righteous, has surpassed dogmatic and draconian structures that had come before.
There is no doubt that many lives have been improved by religion, but it is important that we recognise the evils that it routinely inspires and sanctions. At the end of 2018, Australian politics is abuzz with the prospect of introducing additional protections for religious practices, thereby safeguarding bigoted portions of those beliefs, and in effect, placing human rights beneath archaic doctrines. Raskolvikov killed people, not because of a loss of faith; the fact remains that the murders had taken place, in spite of all the religion being imposed upon him.