Leo Tolstoy’s famous novel Anna Karenina is brought to life in a modernised adaptation written by Lesley Hart and directed by Polina Kalinina. A novel seen by many as a classic romance story is brought right up to date with modern Scottish language allowing audiences unfamiliar with the book to better understand it. One thing I admire about this play as a whole is their step away from the ‘traditional’ idea of adaptation, the urge to write almost word for word what happens. Instead, Hart has crafted a story that holds a genuine theatrical charm, capable of retaining attention throughout.
The story follows the title character, Anna Karenina, played by the fantastic Lindsey Campbell, as she travels across Russia to save her brother’s (Stiva, played by Angus Miller) marriage after he has an affair. In doing so, she meets Vronsky (Robert Akodoto) and starts an affair of her own. Like the novel, love, lust and desire are clear themes throughout as we watch all the characters grapple with their own thoughts and feelings.
Something I really liked about this play is that none of the actors really seemed to outshine each other. There was a real sense of equality and ensemble on stage which is often rare to come across when some actors have larger roles than others. However, a special mention must go to the hilarious Angus Miller. I could not help but smile anytime he was on stage. Miller brings with him a natural stage presence and is clearly a confident and skilled performer. Also, Lindsey Campell’s performance as Anna was tragically beautiful. Campbell has great skill in showcasing a multitude of emotions on stage, allowing us to truly believe the struggles and difficulties Anna is facing during the play.
This performance is greatly assisted by its use of sound to create the mood and atmosphere of the world on stage. Sound is used a lot during the piece, which is something I often have an issue with, using sound just for the sake of it, however, Xana’s sound design is executed well at all times and is always justified. However, one critique I do have is at times the sound was too loud. I fully understood the purpose of the volume, making the sound sudden, jarring and breaking the equilibrium, however, with outward-facing speakers at the front of the stage, the volume was a little bit too high for those sitting at the front of the stalls.
Another small gripe I have is, while the pacing of the first act one was great, it felt as though it dipped a little in act two. There wasn’t the same level of flow between scenes as the latter half. It felt as though the scenes in act two perhaps didn’t have as much breathing space and the action was being rushed to allow the story to wrap up.
However, Anna Karenina is a show that can be enjoyed by lovers of Tolstoy’s novel, or those like me who are yet to read it. It holds a charm that can only be found in a theatre space and will have you leaving with many thought-provoking ideas.
Anna Karenina plays at the Lyceum Theatre until the 3rd of June and tickets can be found at https://lyceum.org.uk/whats-on/production/anna-karenina
Reviewer: Dylan Mooney
Reviewed: 17th May 2023
North West End UK Rating: