The soil of Mother Russia takes centre stage in this intensely passionate and compellingly original reworking of Tolstoy’s epic love story. At the key moments the actors take in turns to stand or kneel in the dirt.
At one point of particularly high dramatic tension Anna (Ony Uhiara) is pelted and smeared with the stuff by the priggish Karenin (Jonathan Keeble).
The soil, after all, as John Cummins’ Levin reminds us, is where it both begins and ends no matter who you are.
The soil strip is meant to be a grubby counterpoint to the civilising mores of polite society and matrimonial convention. But, of course, for the aristocrats seeking refuge from their economically ruinous country estates and the vexations of the peasant question in the genteel salons of St Petersburg, there is really no escape from life’s fundamentals.
It is a lesson learned too by Anna. “Love is just a better way to hurt each other,” she observes casting final bitter judgement on the unstoppable forces that have undone her.
Jo Clifford’s stage adaptation is a riveting triumph of economy and style.
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