Theatre Review






Bite 08


Theatre O presents





Written by Theatre O and Enda Walsh
and based on The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Directed by Joseph Alford


5 Nov - 22 Nov 2008


Barbican Pit





1ay Couzen

A review by Rosie Fiore for EXTRA! EXTRA!


“Ivan: Isn’t that a Karamazov? We don’t so much live as burn up. It’s not air we breathe but pure oxygen.  We are all wired differently in style and tone, us brothers, and yet we’re plugged into the same life force. His life force.”

Fyodor is the abusive and self-centered father of three sons: Mitya, an immoral wastrel, Ivan, an intellectual, and Alyosha, the “brother loved by everyone” who has left his seminary to attempt to redeem his hideous family. Mitya wants to abandon his adoring fiancee, Katerina, from whom he has stolen money, because he is infatuated with Grushenka, a nightclub dancer. But Fyodor is also in love with Grushenka, and the father and eldest son seem determined to battle to the death for this woman, and for all the ills of their past.

The gumph I’m given on arriving at the Pit at the Barbican includes a quote from Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury about the play. He talks about the “roaring temperatures” of Dostoevsky’s writing, and the necessity of finding theatrical equivalents to match the emotional intensity of the writing. While I’m sure there were several moments in Delirium that made our venerable Archbishop raise a (bushy) eyebrow), I think his assessment of the production is correct.

The crazily physical, manic wildness of Theatre O’s masterful production cranks the emotional temperature up way beyond boiling point. Just when you think things couldn’t get madder, or badder or more dangerous, the outstanding cast dials it up another notch and we are plunged into new and more nightmarish depths.

Within moments of the opening, all the characters are involved in a wild physical fight. From then the breakneck pace doesn’t slow for a second. The company throws every possible technique into telling the story: music, extraordinary lighting, puppetry, animation, and some of the finest physical theatre I have seen in years. Five out of the seven cast members trained at Jacques Lecoq’s legendary International Theatre School in Paris, and it shows. They use their bodies in dance and movement, in combat and comedy in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. 

While every performance was excellent, two did stand out for me: Carolina Valdes as Katerina brought a hilarious, loony intensity to her role, and Lucien MacDougall as the put-upon servant Smerdyakov seemed to be channeling a young Rowan Atkinson. His songs and puppetry interludes, which gave us the background of the brothers, would stand as performance pieces on their own. We’ll be seeing a lot more of him, I’m sure.
Delirium is tragic, funny, breathtaking and surprising and it pulls no punches. This is probably one of the most exciting pieces of theatre I’ve seen in years. See it, by hook or by crook, if you can. 


Theatre O
5 Nov - 22 Nov 2008
The Pit
Barbican Theatre Complex

7:30pm nightly
Tickets: £12
Age guidance 16+
Contains strong language



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