Pros: A strong cast and some surprising comic relief within an otherwise tragic love story.
Cons: Some erratic choices of music and a running time that had me fidgeting in my seat towards the end.
Arrow & Traps have produced a pretty faithful adaptation of Leo Tostoy’s novel that is tragic, mature and visually pleasing. The company regularly produces Shakespeare adaptations, but they have deviated from the usual this time round to bring the 19th century epic romance Anna Karenina to life.
The story is about Anna and Levin (played by Ellie Jacob and David Paisley), whose stories run parallel to one another’s despite their differences. Anna’s story is one of tragedy and self-destruction whilst Levin’s is one of uncertainty and love. She has a family and role in society which she ultimately rejects in order to control her future, and he has power any man would want but is lacking in purpose, struggling to justify his existence. They are two sides of the same coin as each possesses something that the other desires.
What makes this production one of excellence is the undeniably strong cast, who brought out the complexity of each character and kept us intrigued throughout this story. Surprisingly, the supporting cast managed to get a few laughs from the audience despite the play’s sombre and dark tone. Spencer Lee Osborn and Hannah Wilder both had a number of roles, and together they brought some comedic relief to the stage through the variety of their performances. Adam Elliott certainly managed to capture the role of Karenin effortlessly and Will Mytum made for a dashing and surprisingly likable Vronsky.
The stage bore no other adornments than the black-box of its setting, but along with the admirable cast and good costumes it never felt empty and neither did this simplicity detract from the overall value of the show. The use of snow at some points really made for a beautiful setting, but otherwise the cast never depended upon props to add to the story. A great asset of the show was the use of movement throughout, as it kept the play flowing and modernised the piece without losing the magic of the original work.
The music was mostly good, especially at the end; however at times a heavy constant beat came out of nowhere that didn’t always suit the scene. Also, my main issue with this production would be the length of it because, despite it being a truly great adaptation, I was uncomfortable in my seat by the end. Although, both of these niggles were a minimal distraction compared to the positive elements of the performance.
This was Arrow & Traps’ first deviation from Shakespeare and it has certainly made me excited for their future shows. It is a gripping, visually appealing and a well-acted adaptation that is well worth seeing.
Original Author: Leo Tolstoy
Adapted by: Helen Edmundson
Director: Ross McGregor
Choreography: Jane Munro & Nancy Kettle
Movement Director: Will Pinchin
Producer: Arrow & Traps Theatre Company
Booking Until: 2 April 2016
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking Link: http://www.brockleyjack.co.uk/portfolio/anna-karenina/