November 1, 2006
Crime and Punishment Makes the Cut
By Matthew Harrison
Ninth Wave Theatre Company smash five hundred pages of one of literature's heftiest philosophical expositions into a one-hour show, they bundle 39 chapters into a couple of scenes or so, and in the process slash the novel's body count of 20 intricately connected characters to two.
Even the full names in Crime and Punishment are severed to aid digestion. A criminally insane ambition, perhaps, but the group still manage to make an intelligent stab at Dostoyevsky's 19th Century bible/detective novel for existentialist teenagers.
Rodion (Rodya) Romanovitch Raskolnikov (Patrick Curley with particularly lank hair) is an impecunious ex-student whose enactment of his deluded vision of what constitutes superhuman action leads through neurosis to his downfall. In the squalor and violence of poverty-stricken Petersburg, only through his suffering and love for the 18-year-old prostitute Sofya (Sonia) Semyonovna Marmeladov (Neassa Walsh) can he find redemption.
This is a grave and remorselessly dark piece where lighter moments are either non-existent or an impenetrable grey; however director Kelly Colleen McMahon does create some refreshingly intense drama at times. Her rejigging of the Town Hall Studio space is an apt ruse: she allows Galway's wet streets to provide the cityscape backdrop and also the council's neon streetlights to bathe Rodya in an ominously jaded light.
McMahon's decision to use film to interact with events on stage is also well judged and she does not allow this device to dominate Patrick Curley's committed performance as the wracked Raskolnikov aided by Neassa Walsh as his suitably glamorous redeemer. Although sound reproduction and levels are a little meager and the actors on film are not entirely persuasive, this quiet use of technology fits particularly well with McMahon's reconstruction of the Dostoyevsky text. Here the audience are encouraged to view the play as the reliving of events from Raskolnikov's tortured memory.
For parts of the production McMahon could have had the courage of her convictions by delving more determinedly into stylised, choreographed expression; a move that might have provided a wider dynamic. It is also inevitable that in an adaptation of such a vast text the numerous narrative threads appear to be knotted rather hurriedly at the end. However, for sheer guts, commitment and moments of originality, Ninth Wave certainly makes the cut.