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Brothers Karamazov

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Three stars

Brotherly love is in abundance in writer Richard Crane and director Faynia Willliams' staging of Dostoyevsky's epic 900 page novel, a philosophical treatise on church, state and family. The spiritual, psychological and emotional consequences of murder on such a terminally dysfunctional clan are also apparent. First seen at the Edinburgh Festival in 1981, Crane and Williams' revived collaboration puts just four actors onstage to tell all this over a mere two hours in a transcendent family reunion.

With all four siblings entering through the auditorium singing, this is about as harmonious as things get, as mercurial Dmitry, rationalist Ivan, youngest and most wide eyed of the brood Alyosha and illegitimate runt of the litter Smerdyakov gather. What follows is a soap opera that also fires a moral and ethical debate en route to some kind of enlightenment.

Set inside a construction that is part bearpit, part lecture theatre, on one level, Williams' production is one great big confessional. On another, the set's resemblance to a monastic circus ring lends the troupe of actors a certain levity as they go through a series of set-piece routines. This involves Sean Biggerstaff, Mark Brailsford, Tom England and Thierry Mabonga playing all other characters, as well as throwing the odd dance move.

If this pick and mix of styles and forms mirrors the scale and ambition of Dostoyevsky's original, it doesn't always make for clarity. It never quite finds enough momentum to transform the immensity of its source material into something that fully does it justice. Nor does it distract from some fairly static speechifying. In the end, the brothers go out as they came in, as damaged goods, finding a rare show of unity as they sing the praises of their immortal souls.

The Herald, October ???? 2017

ends

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