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Anna Karenina

Dundee Rep
4 stars
Lovesickness is everywhere in Jo Clifford's impressionistic stage
version of Tolstoy's epic nineteenth century novel. It's a sickness
too that comes in a myriad of forms, as the two couples at the play's
centre strive to follow their hearts, not give a damn about what anyone
else thinks and transcend their ordinary lives into something higher.
Anna and her dashing soldier lover Vronsky's passion in particular
borders on the holy, as a solitary candle lit as the play's opening
chorale rings out indicates. Of course, in the case of their too much
too soon scenario, it'll never last. Only Levin and his belated bride
Katy fully sow the seeds of the future.

The first thing to say about Jemima Levick's new production of
Clifford's script is that it is a technical tour de force, from the
sheer grey walls of Alex Lowde's big wide open set on which smoky
projections punctuate the play's crucial moments, to Aly Macrae's
ornate and mournful score which cranks up Anna's tragedy even more.
Rather than overwhelm this dark tale with tricksy melodrama, however,
it all blends across each other to lend a fluidity to the acting and
make up a deliciously realised whole.

There are beautiful counterpoints too in Clifford's writing, as when
Kevin Lennon's Levin and Helen Darbyshire's Katy chalk out their
affections in code, a scene followed by the choreographed consummation
of Anna and Vronsky's all too brief stab at bliss. By the second act,
however, Emily Winter's Anna has become brittle and suspicious, a once
headstrong victim of the chauvinism, misogyny and hypocrisy that
lingers in a society that's not nearly as progressive as it thinks.

The Herald, May 27th 2011

ends

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