Underground, Theatre Royal, Brighton

Murder, murder everywhere
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The Independent Culture

Only Dreamthinkspeak, a company that excels at eerie promenade performances, could have done it. For four nights last week, they re-enacted Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment backstage at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. Or more accurately, they tore Crime and Punishment into little bits and let you, the wandering audience, piece it all together.

Only Dreamthinkspeak, a company that excels at eerie promenade performances, could have done it. For four nights last week, they re-enacted Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment backstage at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. Or more accurately, they tore Crime and Punishment into little bits and let you, the wandering audience, piece it all together.

Entering by the Stage Door, you make your own way through the theatre's plush lobbies and ghostly gantries, stumbling at random upon tableaux from the novel. Peering into a cramped dressing room, you see the ghost of murdered Alyona Ivanovna counting her jewels and plate. In the lower depths of the orchestra pit, you chance upon a consumptive woman railing at a drunk in Russian. Peeping through a dark spyhole in the wings, you glimpse Raskolnikov, stoking his axe.

Trapped in the theatre with these figments, it becomes ambiguous as to whether they are chasing you, or you are chasing them: the installation perfectly recreates the paranoiac atmosphere of the novel. Moreover, all the routes round the theatre lead to different views of the crime: you can see the murder projected onto a wall on film; you can see the murder through a crack in a dressing room door; you can even see the murder taking place at the window of a next door house a few rooftops away. Like Raskolnikov's haunted imagination, you return to it again and again, eternally.

The evening has its share of hammy theatrical devices - laughing ghosts that appear unexpectedly at windows and suchlike. But even these are executed with such exquisite ingenuity you would need a hard-boiled heart not to succumb.

Dreamthinkspeak is adept at creating startling images, as they proved with their production Don't Look Now, (Stanmer Park/ Somerset House). But where that - like so many promenade installations - depended on atmosphere rather than meaning, this new show is much more satisfyingly cerebral. At one point, when the safety curtain lifts, the whole auditorium feels like the interior of Raskolnikov's skull. It's brilliant stuff. The good news is: this production is being recreated in a warehouse in Clerkenwell, London. The bad news is: not till October.

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