Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

...some trace of her

Inspired by The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, adapted by Katie Mitchell and the Company
RNT Cottesloe
(2008)

Production photo

Katie Mitchell is at it again. Her iconoclastic style has a number of different variants, but this combination of Dostoyevsky and Dickinson (Emily) is firmly of the Waves School.

An incredibly committed on-stage team of eight, supported by a string quartet behind the scenes, spends 90 impressionistic minutes in thrall to one of those 19th Century Russian tales of misdirected passion.

In this artistic world, style is everything with content providing sometimes distant support. Understanding of the plot is achieved as much by osmosis as explication and it would be helpful to read the novel before attending.

Having said all of that, the effect is mesmerising and, had the auteur not already done it a couple of times before, unique.

The story of doomed desire between Ben Whishaw's gloomy Myshkin and troubled Nastasya Filipovna played by Hattie Morahan is imponderably dark, with death in the wings, at least as powerful a force as love.

The stage is littered with cameras and microphones as well as heaps of junk. All is assembled with military precision, each actor multitasking to become cameraman or boom holder, foley artist or spare hand. The remarkable achievement of lining up thousands of little actions, speeches and ideas was best demonstrated by the one faux pas, when a disappearing earring or two briefly caused near panic.

The primary intention is to build up a black and white film of startling tangentiality but which eventually, atmospherically takes us back in time to the days when love was seemingly always accompanied by guilt with trouble not too far behind.

Miss Mitchell's message is almost entirely in the deconstruction of the medium so that a small act might comprise four different actions, say a facial image, a voice over, a soundscape and an accompanying image. In this way, we learn much of the nature of cinematic illusion and metaphorically human delusion.

This is hardly theatre as we know it, being rather closer to video installation. Whatever its shortcomings though, it insidiously sucks in viewers with open minds and contains moments and images of great beauty. Other visitors, such as the man talking to himself on the way to the tube afterwards, are less taken by the "codswallop". Such is the beauty of experimental theatre.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher